Helping survivors of abuse and at-risk teens - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Helping survivors of abuse and at-risk teens

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - With nine days until Christmas, many San Diegans are struggling to make ends meet, but on Wednesday night a group of local, state assembly leaders stepped up, to help survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and at risk teens.

For the third year, state assembly leaders hosted a holiday gift drive at the state building downtown.

Items that have the power to make a huge impact in the lives of those struggling this season filled the tables over the course of the hour-long drive.

“The state has turned around. We are doing much better, but not everybody feels that,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.

During Wednesday night’s drive the spotlight was on those San Diegans who for reasons beyond their control need a helping hand.

“We want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to feel the holiday spirit,” said Marisa Ugarte, with the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition. 

This year, the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, a local non-profit, was selected to help. The Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition helps local victims of human trafficking receive emergency shelter and assistance.

Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez will introduce legislation next month which would mandate jail time for those who solicit sex and offer help to those forced into the sex trade.

“It’s a huge issue in San Diego. We want to bifurcate it and make sure that people, especially those under 18-years of age, are treated as the victims they are. They cannot be a perpetrator of crime if there is a crime being committed against them,” said Gonzalez.

Also honored Wednesday night was Bridges Teen Recovery and Becky’s House. Bridges Teen Recovery aids at-risk youth and Becky’s House helps survivors of domestic violence.

“We have come a long way to protect these woman and helping them re-build their lives. There is still a lot to be done,” said Assembly member Shirley Weber. 

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins also touted the new earned income tax credit which will go into effect next year on the state level to accompany the existing federal tax credit for working families in California who are struggling to make ends meet.

It is a credit that could mean an additional $400 to $2,000 back to those families in their tax returns next year.

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