INDIANAPOLIS — A new housing initiative for victims of human trafficking is underway in Indianapolis.

The effort started due to a partnership between the Damien Center and the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking. The program is focused on LGBTQ individuals, women and school-aged children in poverty, transgender women of color, and people who are incarcerated for crimes relating to sex work exploitation who are engaged in the re-entry process.

“Victims of human trafficking often have many of the same social determinants of health and circumstances that put victims at risk for HIV including, poverty, homelessness, LGBTQ status, commercial sex work, and more,” said Alan Witchey, president and CEO at Damien Center. “Many of the services these victims need are available free of charge through Damien Center, particularly if the participant is HIV positive or at risk for acquiring HIV.”

It’s the first program of its kind in Marion County. The program uses existing relationships with landlords to provide transitional assistance housing to ten people as part of the pilot program funded by a $600,000 grant from the Department of Justice.

Those in the program will be given temporary housing for 18 to 24 months while they search for a permanent home. In addition to housing assistance, participants will also receive access to services like housing case management, and support services for themselves and their families.

“The amazing thing about this program is it does take them from a place of fear and darkness, and we can create stability and light by creating a permanent home for people, and to provide the supportive services they need to be successful for the rest of their lives,” said Witchey.

As the Crossroads of America, Indiana is a high-risk area for human trafficking. According to the Attorney General, 157 cases of human trafficking were reported including 40 that involved minors in 2019. If you suspect someone you know might be involved in trafficking, you’re asked to call the national human trafficking hotline at (888)373-7888.