SAFE Central Florida

by: FOR Orlando

SAFE Central Florida is an alliance of law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, and advocates that identify strategic projects to fight human trafficking here in Central Florida. They aim to facilitate a passionate alliance of purpose-driven partners that produce and fund anti-sex trafficking solutions through prevention, intervention, and restoration. Check out our conversation with SAFE team member, Greg, below.

Co-Founder and Advocate, SAFE Central Florida

I’m a little nervous because I’m not an expert at all. I’m just a regular guy that God tapped on the shoulder and put into action.

I’ve been in Orlando for 30+ years. I worked for a company called Westinghouse which was bought by Siemens a few decades ago, and so I came here for a job and just loved it here. Over the years, I loved working at Siemens and ran a big sales group, and then I retired in 2018 after 41 years.

So, then I went to a conference in 2019, which was about ordinary people that were doing extraordinary things. I went to a talk by a woman named Heather, who started SAFE in Washington DC, and the idea of using the business structure of an “alliance” to tackle a community problem, such as human trafficking, caught the business side of me.

Then when I learned how bad human trafficking was in Central Florida, myself and two peers end up all walking into the same seminar together. We sat and listened, and we said to each other, “Somebody has got to do something like this in Central Florida!” When it was over, we looked around and there was nobody else there.

So, then I’m thinking, okay God, if you want us to do something about human trafficking, we have little or no skills in terms of knowledge about human trafficking, but we’re willing.

So that’s the genesis of SAFE. We pulled together a kind of strategy workshop we launched virtually in 2020, and then here we are a little over two years later. We have 60 Alliance members, we have made five grants already approaching $200,000, and we have partnered with all the major law enforcement groups.

When people ask what SAFE is, I tell them SAFE is an alliance of law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, and ‘champions’ that are coming together to identify strategic projects to fight human trafficking here, in our community.

I’m passionate about having churches work together for a common cause for the big “C” Church. Since none of the three of us had business connections in Orlando, if this was going to be a God mission, we prayed that He would open doors in churches for us and that has been the coolest thing. Over half of our funding is from churches! I mean, we’re called to do this.

I love talking about things I’m passionate about obviously, and I love telling the story because it takes a huge group to tackle something as big as human trafficking. It’s so complex, it’s so dark, it’s so ugly, and there’s such a big need, that no one church, no one nonprofit, and no one individual can do it without the collaboration of the community. Most people do not realize that human trafficking is such a big problem in Central Florida. It’s the third worst city per capita in the United States.

It’s not something like the movies will show or depict. 80% to 90% of the victims of human trafficking in our community are local, typically runaways from the foster care system, or kids who are running away from bad situations at home. They come to Central Florida looking for something better, a job or whatever, and get sucked in by traffickers. So, these are our daughters, and in some cases sons, and kids that just got in a really bad situation.

We want to help work with strategic partners in our community, on strategic projects geared to solving problems around exploitation, to get them over the finish line. So they prove a concept that a group or individual nonprofit can’t get normal funding for, and needs somebody to take a chance with them. And finally, we’d like to identify work on solutions for unaddressed problems.

The hardest thing to do is probably figure out how to tackle some of the biggest thorniest issues that really can make a difference. Housing is one, just because housing was bad before, but it’s even worse now. Housing for survivors is tough all over the country, in Orlando it is no exception. You know, you basically, you’re being rescued with nothing.  You don’t have a job. You don’t have an ID. You don’t have anything, and you’ve got a huge amount of trauma, so there are several programs that can help you rebuild your life, and we want to help those programs collaborate and innovate as they work together for Orlando.

If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888

To learn more about the signs of Human Trafficking, click here.

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