Should Portland cut programs that help sex trafficking victims?
PORTLAND -- A $21.5 million budget shortfall is forcing Portland’s mayor to make some tough choices, and several programs on the chopping block help teenage sex trafficking victims.
A hearing at Warner Pacific College started at 3 p.m. Saturday and city leaders got an earful from concerned citizens.
This is the second of three public meetings and the mayor is listening to all the testimony.
Earlier Saturday, KGW spent some time with a team of professionals who help young sex trafficking victims. They believe the city's proposed cuts could cost many young lives.
Escaping what young sex trafficking victims call “the life” is extremely difficult. However, more kids are getting a chance at normal lives thanks to several city programs, which now face $631,000 in proposed cuts.
“These are not kids or families that you see on Burnside and Second. They're scattered across the city every socio-economic category,” said Kevin Donegan who runs a shelter for sex abuse victims.
The city wants to cut several key positions, which Donegan says are instrumental in helping these troubled kids.
“I can't tell you how many times I have a 14 or 15-year-old girl here who’s addicted to meth. It’s just a nightmare to see,” he said.
“The budget cuts are saying to the most vulnerable youth in our city that they don’t matter and that's what they've already been told by pimps and failed systems, so that's what I think is the worst part because they do matter,” said case manager Tanell Morton.
Morton is one of four case managers with the sexual assault resource center. She pounds the pavement every day giving support to sex trafficking victims--some as young at 11 years old.
“Our girls are in every public school, every alternative school. They're everywhere, in the grocery stores in the malls. They are all throughout our city,” Morton said.
Under the city's proposed cuts, Morton would lose her job along with another case worker. The remaining two workers would be forced to split all 120 sex trafficking cases in the city.
“We're going to lose more children in our city to extreme violence and nightly violence if they're not being killed they're still incurring violence every single night,” Morton said.
Local prosecutions for pimps have increased 350 percent in the last few years but the deputy district attorney’s job that’s behind all that is scheduled to be cut.
The next and last public hearing is set for next Thursday.