Local nonprofit anti-human trafficking gets a boost from city ARPA funds

O’FALLON, Mo. (KMOV) – The anti-human trafficking effort in St. Charles County received a boost Thursday. It comes as five missing children from the St. Louis area were found and returned home safe and sound earlier this month in a nationwide sting operation. Today, a local organization that educates and provides resources on human trafficking is receiving financial assistance.

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

Rostami is the executive director of Gateway Human Trafficking, a West County nonprofit that focuses on educating the public about the problem. Rostami said it can be simple to keep tabs on human trafficking, but it’s not always people’s priority.

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

Hennessy, O’Fallon, Mayor of Missouri, said he is working closely with Gateway and law enforcement in the region to step up efforts against human trafficking.

“We have Highway 64 in O’Fallon, then we have 70 and 94. We’re a hub that traffickers can use that road, often, to transport the victim,” Rostami explained.

These are highways that many of us drive every day. That’s why Gateway Human Trafficking received over $7,000 from Mayor Hennessy and the City of O’Fallon. Hennessy said it was part of their ARPA funding distribution. Fourteen other local nonprofit organizations also received donations.

“We are able to educate more residents and community members of O’Fallon about human trafficking, and in fact as part of this program we will be putting up billboards on these highways,” Rostami said.

Education doesn’t just stop on the highways. It’s even in the unexpected, like in the toilets of your local gas station. Rostami encourages people to continue to keep their eyes and ears open. See something, say something or call the national hotline.

“Our colleagues at the National Human Trafficking Hotline would rather 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 is being trafficked or suspect, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733 (BeFree).

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