Chaired by Suzanne Rogers, the campaign, “Just Like a Girl You Know,” will support the implementation of the broad-ranging plan over the next five years.
“Our goal is to provide leadership and forge the community partnerships necessary to provide the critical help these young women need and to prevent this horrific crime,” says our Executive Director Bruce Rivers.
Our “Urban Response Model” proposes measures ranging from prevention to enhanced victim services, including a new transitional housing program, and a research and evaluation component to assess the services and develop an online resource hub. The housing program for youth is set to open later this spring. The house will be called The Rogers Home to honour the significant contribution of the Rogers Foundation.
To develop and implement the program, we have partnered with more than 10 leading youth-serving organizations expert in trauma and addiction, police and legal professionals and hospitals.
The fundraising campaign has already garnered more than $6.5 million in pledges. Along with the Rogers Foundation, major supporters include The Slaight Family Foundation, the Gooder Foundation, Justice Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Toronto Community Housing is providing a $1 annual lease for the house and the City of Toronto is renovating the building and supporting two dedicated crisis beds – a first in the city.
Mayor John Tory, Toronto Police Sex Crimes Unit Head Joanna Beaven-Desjardins and sex-trafficking survivor Casandra Diamond, endorsed our plan at the launch event.
“Covenant House has been helping victims of trafficking for many years now, and this anti-trafficking plan and fundraising campaign will renew efforts to tackle a terrible problem in our city,” said Mayor Tory. “This is an excellent example of what can be achieved when the community works together.”
We have been helping victims of trafficking since we opened more than 33 years ago. While homeless youth are at a high risk of being trafficked, Rivers explained, unsuspecting young women and girls are also being lured from malls, school yards and online. The number of girls we saw last year who had been trafficked or sexually exploited increased 130 percent to 46.
Developed over the past two years, highlights of the Urban Response Model include:
Prevention and Early Intervention:
- Multi-media campaign and in-school presentations to warn girls of the signs of luring and trafficking
- Training sessions for those in relevant fields, such as hotel staff, to recognize potential trafficking and luring incidents
Services (Crisis Intervention, Stabilization, Transition and Independence):
- 24-hour emergency plan and response team and dedicated crisis beds
- Case management and personalized supports (safety plans, court support, addiction and trauma counselling)
- Transitional housing program with wrap-around services
- Peer mentorship, health promotion and access to the agency’s community apartments
Research and Evaluation:
- Gap analysis of existing services and systems
- Evaluation of prevention and intervention strategies/plan
- Evaluation of program model and emergency response protocol
- Development of resources to be shared through an online hub
Sex trafficking, the most common type of human trafficking in Canada, is a growing public issue and is a largely domestic crime. Some ninety percent of victims are female and most are Canadian girls as young as 13, and on average 17.
Toronto has been identified as a trafficking hub in the province which has the bulk of Canadian cases. Police estimate the local number of victims may be in the thousands, although incidents often go undetected.