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Council to consider $250,000 to reduce prostitution

The City Council will consider reversing a cut in the current budget and increasing funding for services to reduce prostitution in Portland.

On Wednesday the council will consider spending $250,000 in general fund dollars on several programs that provide counseling and other support services to young victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The funding request comes five months after a city budget took effect that cut such funding by $117,000.

The reversal would be funded with surplus dollars that have become available since the council approved the previous budget. It included numerous cuts recommended by Mayor Charlie Hales to close a projected shortfall in general fund dollars because of the recession.

The funding request was submitted by Commission Amanda Fritz in response to several studies that show prostitution is a serious problem in Portland. According to the ordinance submitted by Fritz:

• A Portland State University study commission by Oregon U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall found that at least 469 children were exploited as commercial sex workers in Portland between 2009 and 2013.

• Twenty-seven percent of the exploited children were African-American, a percentage five times greater than the percentage of African-Americans in Multnomah County.

• Portland has received national attention as a hub for human trafficking because a disproportionate number of women, men and transgendered individuals over the age 18 are forced into prostitution.

• Portland was ranked second in the nation in rescued child survivors of human trafficking, according to a 2010 study highlighted on 60 minutes.

• Service providers report that many victims are not receiving any services that could transition them out of their situations.

The ordinance requests $250,000 for a number of non-profit service providers, including New Options for Women, the Sexual Assault Resource Center, Janus Youth Programs, and GirlStrength. Services will include counseling, referrals for treatment and housing, and self-defense training.