Youth Bridge Receives Grant to Fight Sex Trafficking and Homelessness

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA)–Right now the non-profit Youth Bridge is enlisting other local non-profits in the area to join it in the fight against sex trafficking.

The organization has received a street outreach grant to connect at-risk teens with resources aimed at preventing and getting them out of sex trafficking situations.

Youth Bridge in Fayetteville says the grant is specifically for runaway and homeless youth services.

The team wants to go out and find these at-risk kids, develop a relationship with them, and connect them to resources that will keep them safe. 

Kody Ford, the street outreach coordinator at Youth Bridge said, “We’re looking for young people up to age 21 who are homeless who are being sex trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked.”

Ford and his team at Youth Bridge in Fayetteville have plans to go across Washington and Benton counties to look for at-risk kids.

The team at Youth Bridge put in a request for the grant after they saw a serious need for outreach in the Northwest Arkansas community.
 
Ford said, “We can get them the resources if they’re under 18, Youth Bridge can do that directly, and if not, if they’re through age 21, we can connect them to our partnering organizations.”
 
Youth Bridge has been reaching out to non-profits throughout Northwest Arkansas, asking them for help to protect kids and young adults from sex trafficking.
 
Into the light, a non-profit located in Springdale and Mountain Home, was happy to oblige.
 
Executive Director of Into the Light, Gretchen Smeltzer, said, “We can’t reach and be everywhere, but if many organizations engage high risk youth and are aware, educated and trained on it, then they can identify victims.”
 
Victims aren’t always obvious to spot.
 
Those victimized by sex trafficking are almost never kidnaped.
 
Ford says it’s more of a situation that involves the victim thinking they don’t have another choice.
 
It happens in romantic relationships, online relationships, or a lot of the times it happens when homeless youth need a roof over their head and don’t know where else to turn.
 
“We’re going to be in Bentonville, we’re going to be out in Rogers, we’re going to be in Siloam Springs, and even smaller towns whenever we have the opportunity to connect with those young people because street out reach is all about going to them and then connecting them to this broader world of services that’s going to help them get a better life,” Ford said.

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