An evaluation of the state’s Safe Harbor Program has found most at-risk and sexually exploited youth in the program reported feeling more hopeful and better prepared for the future.

Wilder Research completed its third evaluation of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor program, a multi-agency statewide initiative designed to meet the needs of sex-trafficked and exploited young people through age 24 using a public health, public safety, human services and human rights approach.

Program funds allow agencies and grantees to provide supportive services, housing and shelter and to deliver training, coordinate across disciplines and conduct outreach.

Between April 2017 and March 2019, Safe Harbor grantees served 1,279 youth and young adults, including 977 new clients. The last evaluation published in November 2017 found that from April 2015 to June 2017, Safe Harbor grantees provided services to 1,423 people.

“It’s encouraging to see the positive impact of Minnesota’s Safe Harbor approach as we all work to address the serious problem of sexual exploitation,” said, Jan Malcolm, Minnesota commissioner of health. “Our public health model is focused on giving young people the tools they need – housing, education and support from trusted adults – to rebuild their lives after sex trafficking. We need to build on this success and make sure we reach all exploited youth where they are at in their schools and communities.”

The average age of participants served under Safe Harbor was 17. A slightly higher percentage of youth served were in greater Minnesota (54 percent) compared to the metro area (46 percent).

Safe Harbor is a statewide initiative to meet the needs of sexually trafficked and exploited youth.

The evaluation showed 97 percent of youth interviewees noted a positive change after accessing Safe Harbor services, and 88 percent noted a positive change in their situation.

Almost all (94 percent) respondents felt more hopeful after receiving services, and 100 percent felt more prepared to reach educational goals. In addition, 94 percent said they would seek help from police if they felt unsafe, while 89 percent felt more prepared to support themselves financially in a safe way.

The evaluation also found Safe Harbor could be even more effective by decreasing service and training gaps and addressing systemic challenges. Additional needs include housing, mental health, long-term services, rural services, culturally specific services and services for victims /survivors over age 24.

If you or someone you know is sexually exploited or taken advantage of, help is available on the Safe Harbor Web page online. Find it at health.state.mn.us. You may also call the Day One Hotline at 1-866-223-1111.