Ontario providing funding to Windsor, Sarnia for human trafficking projects

Windsor and Sarnia will receive some of the $1.5 million the province is giving for human trafficking projects.

Windsor and Sarnia will receive part of the $1.5 million the government has committed

Windsor Police Service will receive $99,608 from the province for an exit strategy to help combat human trafficking. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The government of Ontario announced it will provide $1.5 million in grants to police services in the province to help prevent unlawful activity and support victims of human trafficking.

Sarnia Police Service will get $37,537 for a human trafficking identification and surveillance project.

Windsor Police Service is receiving $99,608 for an exit strategy. That project would provide officers with technology and training to spot both victims of human trafficking and perpetrators. It also provides support to community partners, helping them take part in rescuing victims.

"Recent efforts in the last number of years has really concentrated in developing a relationship and a collaboration with OPP and the Windsor police, so it's required all of us to come together to look at what the needs are," said Shelley Gilbert, the coordinator of social work services with Legal Assistance of Windsor.

The complex issues of human trafficking requires a lot of partners to work together, she said.

Gilbert is happy that police understand it's an important issue not only in Windsor, but and across the country.

Shelley Gilbert is the executive director of Law Assistance of Windsor. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

With this new funding, she said police "are looking for additional opportunities for education and resources that they require to help identify and refer people to us and to help people move forward with their lives."

Legal Assistance of Windsor works with people who have been exploited through human trafficking. Their clients vary from Canadians who have been trafficked, to domestic and even internationally trafficked people.

"We work mostly with women that have been trafficked into the sex trade industry, but also individuals who are forced to work or perform labour for somebody else, who is getting the money for that" Gilbert said.

Her office works with people who may need to be relocated to Windsor and people from Windsor who need to get out of the community.

Tap the player below to hear the conversation with Chris dela Torre on Afternoon Drive.

Housing issues

According to Gilbert, the lack of housing is not only causing people to experience homelessness, but it also leads people to unsafe situations when they become desperate.

"People are taking risks with who they are befriending. Who they are living with," she said.

"Finding affordable housing is very difficult so as a result of those vulnerabilities very often people may be lured or deceived, tricked into doing things they're not really comfortable doing."

Gilbert said the government is recognizing there are particular vulnerabilities for people who are homeless and in other situations.

"There's a lot of systemic oppression that happens in different areas as well, certain polices and procedures that we have to sort of recognize are not helpful and may lead to further types of exploitation," she said.