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MVLS receives $25K grant to help human trafficking victims

Susan Francis

Susan Francis, executive director of the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. (File photo)

Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service announced Monday that it has received a $25,000 grant from the Venable Foundation to assist with the nonprofit’s Human Trafficking Prevention Project. This is the second consecutive year that MVLS has received the funding from the law firm.

Project manager Heather Heiman said the grant will allow MVLS to expand its outreach efforts and better connect pro bono attorneys with victims of human trafficking.

“It’s mostly about letting us go out and do more outreach to meet clients,” said Heiman, who added that outreach would take place around the state.

The project, which began in 2016 in partnership with the University of Baltimore School of Law, assists human trafficking victims who often need legal help to clear their records of prostitution convictions. Without a clean record, Heiman said, it can be difficult if not impossible for human trafficking victims to find housing and employment.

Since 2016, MVLS has trained more than 75 pro bono attorneys to assist more than 100 clients who are survivors of human trafficking or who are at risk of being trafficked, according to a news release.

By getting the word out and working with local shelters and other human trafficking prevention groups, Heiman said she hopes more victims seek legal help.

“It is still a hidden issue and one we definitely need to continue having a discussion about,” Heiman said.

Susan Francis, executive director of MVLS, said the organization is thrilled to receive the grant from the Venable Foundation for a second year.

“With this funding, MVLS will be able to improve the project’s capacity to provide comprehensive civil legal services to survivors, which helps them on their path to recovery from the severe trauma they experienced while trafficked,” Francis said in the news release.

The Human Trafficking Prevention Project provides on-site intake at multiple community based organizations, including the Pride Center of Maryland; Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County; TurnAround Inc.; Helping Up Mission; Support, Partnership, and Realtime Communication (SPARC) Center for Women; Pivot Program; and Catholic Charities’ My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, according to the news release.

Lawyers interested in volunteering with MVLS can visit

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