A statewide project to increase awareness of human trafficking of youth (ages 25 and younger) in North Carolina has received a two-year, $4.9 million grant from the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission.
Project NO REST (North Carolina Organizing and Responding to the Exploitation and Sexual Trafficking of Children) is an initiative of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work. The project will use the grant to help expand public outreach, training programs and other project activities. The grant is funded by the federal Victims of Crime Act.
“The Project NO REST team is addressing a serious problem in North Carolina,” said Gary Bowen, dean of the UNC School of Social Work. “With this grant, we have the ability to help prevent human trafficking, as well as make a positive difference in the lives of those who have been victims.”
Project NO REST offers guidance to community organizations that provide physical and mental health care, housing assistance and life skill development. These efforts have two purposes: to help eliminate the conditions under which an individual could be susceptible to labor trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation and to help victims of human trafficking recover and move forward.
“Project NO REST works with individuals from many areas — law enforcement, judges, teachers, health care workers, school social workers, even hotel staff members,” project director Dean F. Duncan explained. “We’re building a stronger infrastructure, bringing more people together — people who hadn’t worked together before.”
Project partners include N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault, N.C. Division of Social Services, N.C. Human Trafficking Commission, Administrative Office of the Courts, UNC School of Media & Journalism, UNC School of Government and other agencies. More than 100 stakeholders have worked with the Project NO REST team to develop a comprehensive work plan for the project, Duncan said.
A key part of the project is a statewide public outreach campaign, designed to help individuals recognize risk factors for trafficking and to reach and engage youth who may already be trafficked. The campaign will appear in media outlets throughout North Carolina.
Capitol Broadcasting Company has worked with Project NO REST to develop broadcast and web advertising for the campaign. In addition, Fox 50, a unit of Capitol Broadcasting Company, is providing an in-kind contribution of $250,000 in advertising for the campaign annually for two years.
“We often want to be in the ‘Top Ten’ of prestigious lists, [but] not on this list — North Carolina is indeed in the ‘Top Ten’ in the United States for human trafficking,” said Steven Hammel, vice president and general manager for FOX 50 and WRAL-TV. “Capitol Broadcasting Company hopes to help get North Carolina out of that ‘Top Ten’ and greatly reduce human trafficking with Project NO REST.”
In addition to the public outreach campaign, the project will also include development of best practices to address human trafficking (outlining what, where and how services should be provided), a toolkit of resources for communities, a statewide conference to provide training and technical assistance, and other activities.
Project NO REST began in 2014 with a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Children’s Bureau. The project is developing and testing best practices in 17 counties through five pilot sites: Friend to Friend (Montgomery, Moore and Randolph counties); Our VOICE (Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, McDowell and Yancey counties); Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center (Mecklenburg County); Sheriff’s Office of Cumberland County; and the 30th Judicial District Domestic Violence-Sexual Assault Alliance (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary).
For more information about Project NO REST, visit the website www.projectnorest.org with information in English and Spanish.