It’s so impressive when valley resources come together for the good. Such is the case with several local agencies.
SunLine Transit has recently partnered with numerous valley nonprofits, including The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center (BSCC) to launch a human trafficking awareness campaign. It’s a crucial new initiative.
The goal of the six-month program is to educate the public about signs of human trafficking and how to report what appears to be suspicious behavior.
SunLine provides public transit services in our valley spanning more than 1,000 miles carrying approximately 4.2 million riders. BSCC’s Denise Bowman says that “many of these riders are young and vulnerable. The traffickers will exploit them. They use buses to move their victims around. It’s important we all know this is a reality right here in our own backyard.”
This illegal and frightening truth is why the SunLine Transit Agency spearheaded an awareness campaign. The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center is a world renowned resource for troubled youth in our county. “We are very committed to being a part of this crucial new awareness program,” Bowman explains. “We are so fortunate to have many dedicated professionals in our community that have come together to create this Coachella Valley coalition against human trafficking. We have a united front, and we are addressing these issues in our local community. The coalition is in its infancy. We are fortunate to have so many partners, like SafeHouse of the Desert, United Way and Rotarians of the Desert.”
The coalition has received a grant for its campaign, making it possible to join together with the expertise of professionals to teach SunLine employees and educate their bus drivers and agency personnel on the signs of human trafficking.
“It's a really unique opportunity to bring awareness to our community," Bowman says. "The hope is that when our community sees something, they will say something. They will report any suspicious behavior, whether it’s an adult or a youth. If something doesn't seem right, that makes you feel like a person could be in trouble, we want people to report it to the authorities, essentially becoming a lifeline for the voiceless.”
The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center has been instrumental in leading the coalition because human trafficking is child maltreatment, and they have expertise in child abuse — but they will also act as advocates for adult victims. “We will collaborate with the agencies that work with those individuals,” Bowman says.
“We are very proactive in combating this issue, and we’re so happy our community is stepping forward. So, if you see something, please, say something.”
Crucial information is being shared and supported to help pave the way to end human trafficking in our valley thanks to several organizations joining forces. It’s the very definition of a caring community coming together.
Sandie Newton is an award-winning broadcast journalist who began her career in Los Angeles as co-host of the nationally syndicated show "PM Magazine." She went on to host many local and national shows like "Hollywood Insider" before becoming one of the original anchors for E! In 2017, she moved full time to the desert to join NBC Palm Springs as the correspondent for NBCares. She is also the host of the daily weekday show "Desert Living Now."
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: SunLine Transit partners with nonprofits to combat human trafficking