New funding – Safety Compass gets $20,000 to continue work

September 2022 Posted in Community, News

By James Day

Safety Compass, the Silverton-based nonprofit that works to support survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, has received a $20,000 grant to help continue its work.

The Oregon Community Foundation grant, announced Aug. 9, was part of a series of awards to 371 nonprofits totaling $8.7 million. The foundation gave top priority to groups who worked with historically underserved communities.

Safety Compass plans to use the money to assist in its effort to expand the capacity of the agency, said founder and executive director Esther Nelson-Garrett.

The Safety Compass staff outside of its office in Woodburn. The group recently received a $20,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation. From left, Chelsea Fife, Nina Dikova, Katherine Tate, Esther Nelson-Garrett, Shaila Oland, Steph Baker, Claire Vogelsang and Allie Martin. Not pictured is Mike Geiger. 

The Safety Compass staff outside of its office in Woodburn. The group recently received a $20,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation. From left, Chelsea Fife, Nina Dikova, Katherine Tate, Esther Nelson-Garrett, Shaila Oland, Steph Baker, Claire Vogelsang and Allie Martin. Not pictured is Mike Geiger.

“Our caseload is just burgeoning,” she said. “And we’re the first call. We never say no. With that very large caseload we just weren’t serving people with the depth we’d like. We want to expand our advocacy.”

Nelson-Garrett said that Safety Compass receives between 3,000 and 4,000 contacts per year, a dramatic increase on the 1,300 or so per year back in 2016.  Most of those inquiries result in referrals to other agencies, with Safety Compass working directly with approximately 300 individuals, Nelson-Garrett said.

Nelson-Garrett, who has a background in advocacy going back two decades, started the agency in 2014 as a Facebook page and at that point served as the lone Safety Compass official. Three grants from the Department of Justice helped Safety Compass boost its staff to nine. The agency works with anywhere from five to 15 volunteers and now serves Clackamas and Washington counties in addition to Marion.

“Our mission is to offer support for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex-trafficking navigating the criminal and social justice systems in the Willamette Valley,” said Nelson-Garrett, who grew up in the Marquam area. 

“We provide 100% free, confidential services to participants, specialized training for professionals and community members, and advocacy during law enforcement interviews.”

Nelson-Garrett praised the Silverton Police Department and Silver Falls School District officials for their “visionary leadership.” She added that being able to offer such services in a town the size of Silverton is unusual. The collaboration with the police and the schools, Nelson-Garrett said, “helps to build the creative approach of connecting at risk youth and trauma survivors to support services that could bridge them into the more robust service providers in Salem.”

Safety Compass also works with area agencies such as Silverton Area Community Aid (SACA) to house youths and Sheltering Silverton to house adults.

Safety Compass 

To learn more about the program go to www.safetycompass.org, or at Facebook.com/SafetyCompassOR. 

The agency also has a 24-hour survivor of exploitation support line at 971-235-0021. 

Those interested in volunteering may email [email protected]

Parents and loved ones of missing or exploited young people are encouraged by Safety Compass to contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST 
(1-800-843-5678).

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