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Macon County poverty higher rate than state and national averages

The Illinois poverty rate is around 12 percent and in the nation’s rate is about 13. (WRSP)

Local social organizations explored the possible link between poverty and human trafficking at a public forum Monday night in Decatur.

The organization, Set Free Movement, hosted a 5-person panel and said the realization that poverty is throughout the state, especially locally, is heartbreaking,

The Illinois poverty rate is around 12 percent and in the nation’s rate is about 13.

According to Set Free Movement, Macon County surpasses those numbers at 18 percent.

After years of work, Set Free Movement said the two linked is a grave situation.

"We realize there’s a big connection between poverty and human trafficking,” said Cindy Kuro, Set Free Movement’s prevention educator, “Sometimes they resort to trafficking to make money"

She said rent, food, and family are all reasons some in poverty could turn to trafficking and no area is exempt.

"People still think that it’s only an overseas problem or big city problem,” she said. “But I’ve had to make a hotline call, just 30 miles from here whose parents were trafficking out their own children."

Monday, the panel from different social groups including Crossing Healthcare and the Dove Foundation hit topics like young pregnancies and homelessness.

Residents said it was eye-opening.

"The community really needs to know what poverty looks like,” said one resident, Aaron Fritzgerald. “What the people are experiencing, human trafficking is modern-day slavery so the thought that someone isn't free to go about is definitely a scary thing and bringing awareness to the issues is very important."

The mediator/MC, Abby Fritzgerald, said the community can help by volunteering with social workers.

“We want to create a community,” she said. “Of zero tolerance for exploitation and we realize that this population is at risk."

They say more collaboration can help keep people off the streets.

"We're just fighting,” said Kuro. “Against human trafficking which includes labor as well as sex trafficking."

"Set Free Movement," said people should go to their local social workers, to see how you can help with giving time or money.

They're asking residents for more solutions.

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