PORTLAND, Ore. — Joel Shapiro created The Trafficking Law Center two years ago. The nonprofit provides free legal services to survivors of human trafficking and trains lawyers to not only understand what trafficking is but also to understand trauma.
"It’s really important to raise awareness about human trafficking, because you can’t prevent it if you don’t understand it," said Shapiro.
He says survivors of trafficking often need a lot of legal help because they were forced into illegal activities while trafficked. Among other things, the nonprofit provides free services to help clear their records.
"They may have a conviction for drugs or prostitution or some other crime and it’s very hard to get an apartment or to get a job," said Shapiro. "Any kind of barrier that’s preventing them from moving forward with their life, we want to try to help them with."
The Trafficking Law Center wants to help as many survivors as possible. They understand it'll take time and money. "We're a pretty new nonprofit," explained Shapiro."We don’t have a big budget, and so in order to hire the staff and pay for our overhead we need to start raising money."
They teamed up with Ki Coffee in Beaverton for a fundraiser. People can support them by buying a cup of coffee or framed pictures taken by a local photographer.
The photos cost $125 and all proceeds go directly to the mission. Customers can also 'round up' their purchases at Ki Coffee to help the nonprofit.
"If you don’t have money to donate right now, just talking about human trafficking, going to our website and learning more about it, are all good ways to help the issue in our community," said Melissa Pepitone, a legal interviewer with the Trafficking Law Center.
"People need to know that human trafficking is going on in their community and it may not look like what they think it looks like," said Shapiro.
The photos will be displayed at Ki Coffee through July 31. The team at Trafficking Law Center hopes the fundraiser helps shine light on the human toll of trafficking. "With that kind of education and awareness, we can get the appropriate people involved to help the survivors and to prevent more people from being exploited in the future," said Shapiro.