The Salvation Army, a longtime foe of sex trafficking, is coming to the aid of victims in need of emergency shelter. The Salvation Army of Central Ohio recently began providing shelter for six adult women for as long as 14 days at a location that will remain unidentified for security reasons. The Salvation Army is the only agency in a 14-county area to provide short-term, emergency shelter for sex-trafficking victims.
“One of the biggest gaps has been that moment when victims are identified and there’s a scramble for, ‘Where do I go tonight?’ ” said Michelle Hannan, director of professional and community services for the Salvation Army. Some women were placed in homeless or domestic-violence shelters outside Franklin County as a stopgap measure. “There’s such a tremendous need. It’s surprised us, really,” Hannan said.
Women forced into the sex-for-sale business are often threatened by their traffickers if they break free, and thus they need a secure, temporary shelter, she said. She said 3 in every 4 women rescued from traffickers need a place to go on a short-term basis.
Gracehaven, a faith-based group, was scheduled to open a residential program for juvenile victims of trafficking, but the plan stalled. Rahab’s Hideaway, another central Ohio anti-trafficking group, has focused on longer-term housing.
The Guest House, as the Salvation Army is calling the shelter, will have on-site professional support from the organization’s anti-human-trafficking team. After the short stay, a woman can transition into residential treatment programs, move in with a relative or find other long-term housing, Hannan said. The Salvation Army manages the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition, a group of 90 organizations formed in response to the human-trafficking problem. Hannan said the coalition’s caseload totals. 63 trafficking survivors; some are served on an emergency basis, while others need long-term help to deal with physical injuries and past trauma.
The Salvation Army began helping prostitutes in England more than 125 years ago. A decade ago, the organization began focusing on sex and labor trafficking in the U.S.