Feds direct $1 million to Wisconsin to help human trafficking victims

The U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building, 517 E. Wisconsin Ave., was finished in 1899 and designed in the Romanesque style. There will be 15-minute tours of the atrium and two courtrooms from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Federal prosecutors announced $1 million in grants to a pair of Wisconsin agencies to provide housing and other services to victims of human trafficking.

Pathfinders Milwaukee, Inc, and Newcap, Inc., which serves ten counties in northeastern Wisconsin, will each get about $500,000 over three years from the U.S. Department of Justice. Nationwide, the DOJ is providing more than $35 million to 73 organizations for trafficking victim support.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger, whose office announced the local grants, said the money is much-needed. “From our experience, we know that providing safe, stable housing is essential to helping victims break away from their trafficker.” 

Matthew Krueger, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, was joined by members of local law enforcement, the FBI, DEA, ATF and United States Marshals Service to brief the media on Operation Legend being expanded in Milwaukee to combat violent crime.

The money will help pay for up to two years of rent, deposits, utilities and other costs of relocation for victims who typically live at locations controlled by their pimps while being trafficked for commercial sex or exploited for other kinds of labor.

Grant funds will also support Pathfinders’ and Newcap’s efforts to help victims get counseling, training, employment and permanent housing.

Renee Kirnberger, senior vice-president of development and communications with Pathfinders, said lack of a steady home is one of the factors that make victims vulnerable to sex traffickers, and that the DOJ grant will allow Pathfinders to marry its existing housing and anti-violence efforts among young people.

“This is such an incredible opportunity,” she said. “We can’t say how incredibly grateful we are.”

Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or bvielmetti@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.