Sidewalk Soldiers is an anti-human trafficking organization serving the Miami Valley since 2016. This nonprofit organization provides community education, outreach to those currently being trafficked or are at risk, and also supports human trafficking survivors.
Founder and director of outreach and education, Amy Cornelius, says Sidewalk Soldiers is the only organization in the area that performs hotel outreaches, helping over 300 folks escape “the life” since 2016.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, sex trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise. The rate of human trafficking in Ohio is 3.84 victims per 100,000 residents, according to data from the Polaris project, which works to combat trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says human traffickers are in it for the money. With estimated annual global profits of $150 billion they victimize an estimated 25 million people worldwide.
It’s big news that in February, this organization is opening Miami Valley’s first drop-in center to serve folks being sexually exploited or participating in survival sex. The Drop In Center is in the heart of its outreach area on Xenia Avenue.
“Sidewalk Soldiers operates on a meager budget, because it can be a challenge rallying support and donations for a stigmatized population, folks who are often lost or shunned, but are most in need of love and support,” says Cornelius. “The folks we serve have been discarded by society and often their own families. Some of their lives are beyond our worst nightmares, starting from a very early age: abused, groomed and exploited and ending up in the hands of traffickers or on the streets to survive.”
Cornelius says Sidewalk Soldiers seeks to provide love, support, autonomy and empowerment to help these individuals heal and become successful. It needs the help of the community to carry out this mission.
In 2022 Sidewalk Soldiers conducted 50 hotel and street outreaches that resulted in placement of over 35 people into safe homes, drug and alcohol facilities, or rapid rehousing. Training and education was provided to 29 institutions, including universities, businesses and churches. “We can do even more with a new drop-in space where more programming, support groups and meetings will be added,” Cornelius says. “The biggest challenges our folks face are not seeing hope beyond their current circumstance or knowing where to turn and whom to trust. The outreach services and drop in center will be a safe space where they find resources and self discovery.
Here’s what they need:
- Clothing racks
- Storage containers
- Coffee and creamer
- Grocery gift cards
- Wax melts and candles (to keep the center feeling home-like and smelling good)
- Paper plates, napkins & silverware
- RTA bus passes
- Body Wipes
- Wound care (Band-aids etc.)
- Tylenol/ ibuprofen
Donations can be dropped off from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 526 Xenia Ave., Dayton on Wednesdays. You may also order through Amazon Wishlist and have items sent directly to Sidewalk Soldiers: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/32T4CG4EIMV7D?ref_=wl_share.
Other ways to help:
- Sign up to serve at the drop in center or for direct care with survivors. Folks interested in volunteering can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (937) 949-1524
- Businesses, schools and small groups can sponsor a collection drive for hygiene items for outreach and the drop-in center.
- Sponsor a survivor by donating online at www.sidewalksoldiers.org, Venmo: @sidewalk-soldiers, or snail mail: PO Box 301, Franklin, Ohio 45005
Want to educate yourself?
A new addition to the “Slavery Today” gallery at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, helps visitors understand what human trafficking looks like in Ohio and provides resources to become involved in stopping it as modern-day abolitionists.
“Shine a Light” is an interactive experience that invites guests to explore the space, literally shining a light on ordinary scenes to reveal information about human trafficking in Ohio. Pastoral streets with storefronts, bus stops and telephone poles belie the shockingly ordinary nature of human trafficking. However, shining a flashlight on the walls reveals information about a human trafficking victim – including where they’re from, when they were first trafficked and the circumstances in which they were trafficked – and triggers audio recordings of survivors describing their experiences.
Those who believe they are a victim of human trafficking or believe they know someone in danger can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733 anytime.
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Meredith Moss writes about Dayton-area nonprofit organizations and their specific needs. If your group has a wish list it would like to share with our readers, contact Meredith: email@example.com.
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