Human sex trafficking. A serious problem across the country and here in KELOLAND.
KELOLAND News has reported on several cases of sex trafficking in the state over the past two years. We even went undercover with the DCI to show you how widespread of a problem it is. Now it's catching Congresses attention.
It's estimated that 300,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking every year in the United States alone.
Many times, they are sold over the internet.
"I do feel as a community, our youth are the biggest target for this to happen to, but they have the least amount of resources available," Sarah Johnson shelter coordinator of My Sister Friend's House said.
Sarah Johnson is the coordinator at My Sister Friend's House. It's a 12 bed shelter in Sioux Falls for adult survivors who are working to recover.
"We constantly have a waiting list of victims who need shelter and services provided to them and we are unable to, based on the amount, we are able to house," Johnson said.
This week, the U.S. House will vote on a bill that will do a number of things to combat sex trafficking, but also open up Department of Justice grants to those looking to open more shelters for survivors, especially young children.
Congresswoman Kristi Noem is a primary sponsor of the bill.
"By opening up these grants to shelters for this specific purpose, it's going to make sure we have more shelters available that when people are victimized by this industry, they have a place to go to be safe and go back to a normal everyday happy life," Noem said.
Sadly, there are only 200 beds available in the U.S. currently for underage victims.
Johnson says if the bill passes, it'll allow her shelter to apply for a grant to expand their services to younger victims.
"First thing we would use it for is to have a different building, we have upgraded our security system, but we don't have enough room for the need within Sioux Falls," Johnson said.
Noem's bill, which has been co-sponsored by 29 members of Congress, was debated on the House floor today and has passed a bill that addresses the problem of sex trafficking..