This Local Funder Is Fighting Human Trafficking in San Diego County

photo: Yupa Watchanakit/shutterstock

photo: Yupa Watchanakit/shutterstock

In many parts of the country, sex trafficking is something that people are only vaguely familiar with from television shows and movies that take place in foreign lands. But in the San Diego region, sex trafficking is a real and serious issue that affects more local people than you might think. According to data from a recent Point Loma Nazarene University/University of San Diego study, approximately 3,000 to 8,000 victims are trafficked each year here, bringing in an annual estimated revenue of around $810 million. Even more disturbing, the average age of a sex trafficking victim here is just 16 years old.

But while human trafficking is more of an issue in San Diego County that many other parts of the U.S., it still isn’t an issue that is on many philanthropists’ radars. Instead, it’s typically the smaller and more niche types of San Diego funders that pay attention to human trafficking because the issue most closely aligns with their missions. For example, the San Diego Women’s Foundation announced this summer that it would be making new grant funds available to local organizations working to prevent and intervene in human trafficking situations. The funder accepted letters of inquiry with minimum proposals of $25,000 to provide services to people at risk and affected by trafficking.

However, the women’s foundation isn’t just concerned with human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Reports show that approximately 28 percent of migrant workers in the county are labor trafficking victims, and labor trafficking often lends itself to abuse and deprivation. The types of trafficking proposals that the women’s fund is looking for relate to prevention education, rescue programs, therapy, life skills, employment education, housing, healthcare, advocacy, healthcare, food access, legal services, and other social services.

Women’s foundations like this one in San Diego are always interesting to keep an eye on because they are often pretty nimble and ready to pivot in new directions. They tend be highly responsive to the changing local needs of their communities and tap into the most pressing issues where they can make a difference. These are also funders that go beyond just picking a new issue each year, but rather quickly educate themselves on key points to share with the general public. For example, the San Diego Women’s Foundation recently hosted San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan as a featured speaker to discuss local trafficking issues at its free grants kickoff event, an event that was open to anyone except the foundation's nonprofit partners and potential grant applicants.

There are 215 members of the San Diego Women’s Foundation who have facilitated over $3.4 million in grants to more than 91 nonprofit programs. The foundation expects to award between $175,000 and $200,000 for its Human Trafficking Prevention & Intervention program in July 2019.