A group aiming to reduce human trafficking through education has approached Wichita County for help in attaining funding.
“You’ve seen the effect of this in the news recently,” Vicky Payne of Southern Grit Advocacy told county commissioners Monday. She was referring to a high-profile incident of suspected human trafficking in Wichita Falls in recent days.
Southern Grit’s stated goal is to “prevent, disrupt and end sex trafficking through education and advocacy.”
“We’re a year old and ready to put boots on the ground,” Payne said of her group’s efforts to stop human trafficking of children for sex.
The organization is seeking a grant of up to $105,000 from the governor’s office to fund education efforts aimed at children. If approved, the grant would be administered through the county.
“If we don’t do this we’re going to see more incidents like what we saw on the news,” she said.
Payne said the educational effort “empowers students to to know when someone is trying to groom or recruit someone for sexual purposes.”
She said although she is working without pay, the program would require some part-time workers who are hired through an employment agency. She stressed no workers would be on the county payroll.
She also said the group aims at prevention of exploitation and is not involved in the law enforcement aspect.
She said the group is working with the Wichita Falls Independent School District and hopes to work the other schools in the Region IX Education Service Center region.
County Judge Woody Gossom said he would sign papers to get the grant application process started and the commissioners could formally act if Southern Grit Advocacy gets approval from the governor’s office.
The governor’s office has earmarked nearly $20 million for grants intended to address human trafficking in the state. In addition to funding advocacy programs, money is also marked for residential services and case management services for victims of human trafficking.