Salvation Army, in tandem with a new project in the works, is calling for attention and action on rising human trafficking cases in Western Pennsylvania.
“Light Project” started in 2019 and divisional director Sarah Medina said the program has helped 39 victims between 13 to 76 years old who were forced into sex and labor trafficking — typically by someone they knew. “A lot of it is coercion or threats. If you don’t do this, I’ll do this to you. I’ll hurt you, I’ll hurt your sibling,” Medina said. Medina also said cases of human trafficking are growing. Major Amy Merchant, with the project, said it assists victims with food, clothing and housing. The project also helps with free legal services and works to heal victims physically, emotionally, and spiritually. “That’s kind of like our DNA with the Salvation Army. We focus on the less fortunate, the ones that are forgotten or feel that they’ve been forgotten by society,” Merchant said. The Salvation Army has partnered with the federal Office for Victims of Crime, FBI and local police departments, women’s shelters, and others.
“They call us in on emergency calls 24 hours and our team goes out and does assessments. And we immediately whatever the needs are we jump right in,” Merchant said. Medina said that for the Salvation Army, awareness is key. If you’d like to help victims of human trafficking, the Salvation Army is accepting monetary donations. The Light Project can be found here: https://wpxi.tv/3LwpXmF.
Salvation Army Human Trafficking Hotline: 412-999-1197