Covenant House has launched a new fundraising campaigned to help it pay for a number of new programs aimed at helping victims escape the sex trade and rebuild their lives.

The “Just Like A Girl You Know” campaign aims to raise $10 million to help the downtown shelter provide 24/7 crisis intervention to victims of sex trafficking as well as court support, mentorship and life skills development to help them get a fresh start.

The money raised by the campaign will also help pay for the establishment of programs in middle schools and high schools to help educate young people about the dangers of human trafficking as well as the creation of an online hub to provide social agencies in other parts of the country with the resources needed to duplicate Covenant House’s programs.

“It is critical that we look at what we can do to prevent and to raise public awareness. Our target here is that we will focus in on young girls in middle school and high school and provide them with the information that they need to understand the issue of sex trafficking. What is luring? What are the signs? What to do if they are in a situation like that?” Covenant House Executive Director Bruce Rivers told CP24 on Wednesday morning. “It is also equally important to provide victims that are already involved in sex trafficking with the supports and services that they need to get out.”

Covenant House, which will also launch a shelter for victims of sex trafficking in the spring, has already raised about $6.5 million of the $10 million that it needs to operate the various programs over the next five years and Rivers told CP24 that it is his hope that the “Just Like A Girl You Know” campaign will help the organization hit its ultimate goal within a matter of months.

Speaking with reporters at the launch of the campaign, Mayor John Tory said human trafficking should be of great concern to all Torontonians.

“This is an urgent problem. Every day that these programs aren’t fully funded and fully operational is a day when somebody is going to be victimized,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that all of the people who end up as victims of this are somebody’s daughter, or somebody’s sister, or somebody’s co-worker or schoolmate. I am the father of one daughter and the grandfather of one granddaughter and you know it could be any of our children or grandchildren that could end up in this situation. You can’t really know the place that they might find themselves in inadvertently.”

Toronto police say they have investigated 313 alleged occurrences of human trafficking over the last year and charged 120 people with human-trafficking related offences.