Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Inc. is pleased to announce our continued partnership with the Office of Victims of Crime with the award of a new grant to fund the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force, formed in 2017, for another 3 years. The $1.5M grant is shared with our partners at the Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office (PBSO). The Catholic Charities portion of this grant will partially fund the important work of their Bakhita Empowerment Program, serving survivors of human trafficking.
Catholic Charities Bakhita Empowerment Program provides intensive and long term case management services to victims of all types of trafficking within Palm Beach County, and are the only agency offering these services to adult victims over 21. This assistance includes helping survivors rebuild their lives to be self-sufficient - freeing them from dependence on their trafficker. The Catholic Charities case manager coordinates services through their in-house programs or externally through community partners to meet needs related to housing, legal services, medical services, repatriation, reunification, counseling, education and employment services, translation services, substance abuse services, dental services and branding (tattoo) removal. Victims are provided with basic needs and financial assistance to help them create a life away from their trafficker. Case managers also provide transportation to appointments and assist with replacing documentation often lost/stolen while they were trafficked.
There are several factors which have contributed to the proliferating crime of human trafficking in our area, including: robust agriculture and tourism industries, proximity to key, strategic entry points (e.g., PB & Miami Int’l Airports, Int’l Port of PB); significant drug epidemic, and a substantial immigrant population.
The Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force is comprised of a diverse membership joined through a formal Memorandum of Understanding. Current members of the Task Force include: PBSO, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach, the United States Attorney’s Office; PBC Victim Services, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Office of the State Attorney, 15th Judicial Circuit, the Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Department of Children and Families, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, the City of West Palm Beach Police Department, the City of Boynton Beach Police Department, the Town of Palm Beach Police Department, the City of Delray Beach Police Department, Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, the Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches, The Lord’s Place, Hope for Freedom, Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network, the Coalition for Independent Living Options, COMPASS, Inc., Rescue Upstream, National Council of Jewish Women, The Salvation Army, and Barry University. New members are added as the Task Force evolves.
Catholic Charities CEO, Dr. Ellen Wayne, states, "the crime of human trafficking impacts not just individuals and families, but the community as a whole. It is fitting that our response to this horrific crime involves many community partners working together to support victims and to reduce incidents of trafficking in region."