Bakhita program receives federal funds

Catholic Charities of Louisville’s Bakhita Empowerment Initiative has received $1.3 million in two grants from the federal Office for Victims of Crime, part of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The grants are meant to “sustain services and increase access to housing for survivors of human trafficking in Central Kenutcky over the next three years,” a news release from Catholic Charities said.

The first grant — totaling $919,246 — will be used to provide direct services to survivors of human trafficking, including emergency housing, language access, food, mental health care, medical care, legal services, case management and other individual needs.

The second grant for $443,074 will provide six to 24 months of transitional housing “to support survivors of trafficking as they work toward self-sufficiency,” the release said.

The funding will also support efforts to address human trafficking through training and technical assistance, outreach to high-risk populations and increasing awareness of trafficking throughout Kentucky.

Both grants will focus on central Kentucky counties, including Anderson, Bath, Bourbon, Bullitt, Casey, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Franklin, Garrard, Harrison, Henry, Jackson, Jefferson, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Marion, Menifee, Mercer, Montgomery, Nelson, Nicholas, Oldham, Owen, Powell, Rockcastle, Scott, Shelby, Spencer, Washington and Woodford. The Bakhita Empowerment Initiative was established in 2008 to identify and support survivors of trafficking throughout Kentucky. Since then, it  has provided direct services to more than 400 survivors of sex or labor trafficking, including foreign born and domestic victims, adults and children.

Marissa Castellanos, director of the initiative, said she has seen increased identification of trafficking cases in Kentucky during the past 13 years, which has resulted in the need for more services and support.

“We must come alongside survivors as they face challenges in finding safe spaces to heal from their trauma while pursuing their goals and becoming self-sufficient,” Castellanos said.

The Office for Victims of Crime first provided funding for the initiative in 2014, and again in 2017.

The Catholic Charities program has offices in both Louisville and Lexington.

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