Chicago currently has no comprehensive facility in place solely dedicated to helping young women (ages 12 to 24) out of prostitution and away from human trafficking. There are systems in place that may offer psychological assistance, but not essential trauma care. Others may offer a bed to sleep in, but not the hospitality and care needed for growth. The sole Chicago area residential facility available to this population has only 8 to 10 beds. In metropolitan Chicago, 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in the commercial sex trade annually, with one-third of them first getting involved in prostitution by the age of 15, and 62% by the age of 18.
Chicago has the third highest extreme poverty rate in the U.S. Public officials have reduced programs aimed at low-income families, and new policies to help these families have stalled. According to the Commission on the Elimination of Poverty’s 2012 annual report, 12 bills were introduced in the Illinois legislature that would have addressed the needs of families in extreme poverty, but only one was signed into law. Given that the population TDF serves has a low high school graduation rate, finding a job or attending college is a distant possibility. The lack of education and job skills limit girls’ and women’s options for gainful employment.
A severe lack of social workers, school counselors, and access to arts and music education have plagued Chicago’s schools for years. With the frequent physical, sexual, and emotional violence that sexually exploited girls endure at the hands of a variety of perpetrators, many health issues arise, and many girls and women may not have recently or have ever seen a health care provider. Further, the severe emotional scars from traumas will often lead women to engage in self-destructive behaviors as a method of coping. Unfortunately, up to 30% of the townships in the Chicago region believe they meet only a portion of the demand for social services or have inadequate resources to meet the needs in their communities. Approximately 16% indicate they recently have taken steps to reduce or eliminate the services they provide.
With these things in mind, this proposed project involves a comprehensive approach to reducing sexual exploitation through providing sustainable housing, economic empowerment, and social services.