If someone would have told Don Meikle 23 years ago that there would be a human trafficking problem in Saskatchewan, he never would have believed them.
Through his work with Egadz in Saskatoon, he sees the problems with human trafficking and the sex trade in Saskatchewan.
This is why Egadz launched Cyber Outreach initiative “I Am Not for Sale” on Dec. 1.
“We’re getting more and more human trafficking in our province so once we started looking into that we tried to figure out a way to reach out to those people.” Says Meikle.
Meikle and Egadz enlisted the help of local youth to make it accessible through social media.
The kids involved said they would help only if Egadz could guarentee they would help people who called the service, says Meikle.
Those designing the sight called local emergency service organizations, including PARTNERS in Humboldt to ensure they would provide help if contacted.
“It started out it being a Saskatoon thing for emergency contacts, and it ended up going provincially.”
The I Am Not for Sale phone app and website provides a list of emergency help in numerous cities across Saskatchewan, including Humboldt and Melfort.
The website and app was designed for anyone in the sex trade or those who are in danger of becoming a sex trade worker but Meikle says that it also benefits runaway children, as well.
It is easy for someone in need to contact someone for help through the app, but Meikle wants to provide more than that.
“It gives us an opportunity to hook up with these kids and build some trust so they come out from the social media curtain.”
Outreach staff constantly check the site from 8 am to 1 am for people who need help. For people who are in crisis, their information is forwarded on to a vice unit with the Saskatoon Police. The Help Me! section is GPS capable if they are in need emergency services sent to their location.
If the person is not comfortable with involving the police, the Help Me! section is confidential and anonymous.
Meikle says that this is not only for people in danger within the sex trade but also those who are in danger of joining the sex trade.
“We’d sooner help people before they get in the sex trade.” Says Meikle.
Those in the sex trade have a drastically shorter life span, says Meikle. Addiction and drugs can become a big problem for those in the trade.
Along with being a contact on the emergency services page, PARTNERS Family Services Family Support Manager, Crystal Perkins says they will be encouraging their clients to use this new resource.
Perkins along with her co-workers at PARTNERS will be downloading the app and will have full knowledge of what it can for their clients, says Perkins.
”If we have a better understanding of how things work, then we can help our clients better,” says Perkins.
Meikle says they are already working on a third version that would include a button within the app that would automatically call 911 and they can get the location from the phone and a violent customer list for those in the sex trade to protect them against unruly customers.
“We’ve used a violent offenders lists for a number of years, but it’s always been on paper. Now it’s going to be right on the app.” Says Meikle.
The app is going to have a lot of uses, says Meikle, especially when it comes to helping young people get away from the sex trade and violence.
“As long we try to stay ahead of it and offer those people who need help, help, it’s not the end all be all but it’s a step in the right direction.”