November 1, 2016
“Our greatest need is a safe place to take victims” was the response when Orange County Commissioner, Pete Clarke, met Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) detectives two years ago and asked about the issue of human trafficking. Now that need is one step closer to being met.
Today the Orange County Commission unanimously approved a pilot program that will serve human trafficking victims for up to 90-120 days. The crisis shelter fills a large gap in much-needed services for adult victims of human trafficking. Florida Abolitionist is excited at this announcement after working with governmental and non-governmental agencies advocating for a crisis facility for years.
As the first-responder in cases of human trafficking in greater-Orlando, Florida Abolitionist victim advocates have tirelessly worked to give survivors a safe place to begin healing. We have partnered with wonderful domestic violence and homeless shelters who have taken in victims; however, they are often not equipped to serve the degree of trauma that exists in most trafficking victims. Without adequate care, victims may run away and return to the abuse they just escaped.
FA Executive Director, Tomas Lares, addressed the board to explain the great need for the shelter (left).
The new shelter with 10 beds is scheduled to open in April 2017 and will be open 24/7 to serve victims whenever they are identified.
Orange County approved the pilot program for 6 months with a budget of $425,000. This pilot will serve victims and provide information to what is necessary to begin the healing process. Mayor Teresa Jacobs said, “The goal is to have the state take ownership but someone has to take the lead.” Many on the board feel this should be the state of Florida’s responsibility but we applaud the County’s leadership to move forward.
Once the shelter opens, law enforcement and other service providers will have a safe, secure location to bring victims no matter the hour. Victims will receive comprehensive case management, drug and alcohol detox, mental health counseling, and aftercare planning with transition to a long-term treatment facility or independent living.
We are extremely hopeful that an immediate, safe, therapeutic facility will help more victims experience healing and fewer will return to lives of exploitation.
We expect much media coverage around this exciting announcement. Mayor Jacobs and Tomas Lares were interviewed by eager reporters following the historic announcement.
Our Executive Director was interviewed by News 13. Here is the news report.