MILWAUKEE — Nancy Yarbrough-Banks runs Fresh Start Learning, a drop-in shelter for women that are homeless and are victims of sex trafficking. Twice a week she hands out purpose filled purses, bags filled with toiletries because she knows the impact these simple items can have for a person who is sex trafficked. She also includes a letter of love with her personal story.
"All of that is important to build the heart back up so that they know they are loved and we loved them without a cost," Yarbrough-Banks said.
Nancy was a victim of sex trafficking but found the power to leave her situation. Now, she helps women all across the Milwaukee area.
"Knowing that hey, I walked a mile or two in your shoes but there is light at the end of the tunnel," Yarbrough-Banks said.
Since October 2018, Fresh Start Learning has helped 182 woman ages 18-64. She has given away more than 1,180 purses to women out on the streets in high trafficked areas.
Yarbrough-Banks said she does not force anyone to make a decision to leave their situation; she simply offers the option for help.
"We are really out there, allowing people to know there is an alternative way. If you want additional help, we are here for you," Yarbrough-Banks said.
One of the main challenges is that many women are not aware they are being trafficked, and Yarbrough-Banks said she knows the struggle.
"It was more about the monetary gain for himself than me. It was more about his lifestyle versus mine," Yarbrough-Banks said.
Yarbrough-Banks said there are many warning signs like a person suddenly receiving expensive gifts, teens out on the streets late at night, or someone becoming distant. Yarbrough-Banks said it's up to the community to watch out for the signs.
"There are a lot of identifiers. You can go for but mainly just being in tune with your neighborhood. When you see things that don’t seem right they are probably not right," Yarbrough-Banks said.
Combating Sex and Human trafficking was the main topic for Matthew D. Krueger, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
He was the guest speaker at a Rotary event and used his platform to help inform others of the signs and ways people can help.
For the Department of Justice nationally and for the US Attorneys Office, this is a top priority because it is such a horrific crime. It really goes to the core of what our country is about, not exploiting other peoples freedoms," said Krueger.
If you or someone you know is being trafficked contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text "HELP" to 233-733
If you would like to donate to Fresh Start Learning click here https://www.freshstartlearninginc.org/about-us