BIDDEFORD — After a violent civil war, slavery became illegal in the United States with the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

Despite that, today there are an estimated 60,000 slaves in the U.S., according to information provided by from Saint Andre Home in Biddeford. Worldwide, there are nearly 30 million slaves or victims of human trafficking.

In Maine, calls to the national Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline originating from the state have risen 50 percent in recent years.

To deal with the program locally, Saint Andre Home will use a $400,000 grant from the Next Generation Foundation to open the state’s first residential treatment program and safe house for human trafficking survivors.

While anyone, male or female, young or old, can be victims of human trafficking, the program will focus on assisting women over 18 years of age.

Many of the women that will be assisted have been victims of sex trafficking, said agency spokeswoman Diane Madden. Women who were induced to engage in a commercial sex act by force, fraud or coercion would be considered to be sex trafficking victims.

Saint Andre Home will work with law enforcement and other organizations to find women to help, said Madden.

The treatment program and safe house fits into Saint Andre Home’s mission, said Executive Director Reid Scher.

The organization “has a long history of working with homeless, pregnant women, and treating women who have been abused or who are drug dependent,” he said.

While providing a safe place for up to eight women at a time to live, the program will also provide intense mental health and substance abuse services, medical care and other assistance, and teach life skills.

“Ultimately, our goal is that when they leave our program, they will have the tools, confidence and support they will need to start a new life and feel safe,” said Scher.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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