Local nonprofit fighting human trafficking gets boost from city’s ARPA funds

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 4:15 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

O’FALLON, Mo. (KMOV) - The effort to fight human trafficking in St. Charles County got a boost Thursday. It comes as five missing kids from the St. Louis area were found and returned home safe earlier this month as part of a nationwide sting operation. Now, one local organization that educates and provides resources on human trafficking is getting some financial help.

“Make that phone call and save a life,” Shima Rostami said.

Rostami is the executive director for Gateway Human Trafficking, a nonprofit in West County that focuses on educating the public about the issue. Rostami said keeping an eye out for human trafficking can be simple but it’s not always at the top of people’s minds.

“It’s a lot more prevalent than we think,” Bill Hennessy said.

Hennessy, O’Fallon, Missouri’s mayor, said he’s worked closely with Gateway and the area’s law enforcement to ramp up efforts targeting human trafficking.

“We have highway 64 in O’Fallon, and then we have 70 and 94. We are a hub that traffickers may use this route, often times, to transport the victim,” Rostami explained.

It’s highways many of us drive every day. That’s why Gateway Human Trafficking received more than $7,000 from Mayor Hennessy and the City of O’Fallon. Hennessy said it’s part of their ARPA funding distribution. Fourteen other local nonprofits received donations, too.

“We are able to educate more residents and community members in O’Fallon about human trafficking, and actually, as part of this program, we’re going to put some billboards on those highways,” Rostami said.

The education doesn’t just stop on the interstates. It’s even in the unexpected, like in the bathroom stalls at your local gas station. Rostami encourages people to continue keeping their eyes and ears open. See something, say something, or call the national hotline.

“Our colleagues from National Human Trafficking Hotline prefer to receive false reports to investigate the situation than miss the opportunity to identify potential victims of human trafficking,” Rostami added.

To learn more about Gateway Human Trafficking, click here. If you know someone who’s being trafficked or have any suspicion, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733 (BeFree).