Trafficking survivors restore their lives along with broken furniture

Florida Dream Center launches 'Restored' program
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-27 18:20:35-04

Human trafficking survivors are now learning how to rehab and rebuild furniture as well as their own lives, thanks to a new program from the Florida Dream Center.

The Florida Dream Center recently launched the Restored program. 

Debbie Brown leads the program, teaching human trafficking survivors how to restore old furniture, using everything from power tools to paint.

They are also learning critical job training skills, such as computer skills and interviewing techniques.

"What we teach them is not only the skill but we also teach them how to run a business," Brown said. "They can take that and apply that in any work place."

Each piece of restored furniture will be stamped with a brass tag with the initials of the survivor who recreated it.

Erica is a human trafficking survivor who has now restored and recreated several pieces of furniture. ABC Action News is not revealing her last name to protect her from her traffickers.

She said the Restored program has changed her life and given her a new perspective.

"I really didn't have a lot of hopes or dreams," Erica said. "I just worked in a bar for a long time. I thought it would stay that way."

Erica, was recently released from prison and rescued from a trafficking situation soon after. 

Traffickers are now recruiting new victims out of Florida's women's prisons, according to leaders with the Florida Dream Center.

"Right here in our little old backyard, it's huge," said Bill Losasso, president of the Florida Dream Center.

Losasso said traffickers are now paying women behind bars to recruit other prisoners, promising to connect them with a man when they are released who will provide clothing, money and available jobs. Losasso said this is when women leaving prison are especially scared and vulnerable.

"He takes them in to a home and their lives are over," he said.

Now survivors like Erica are seeing themselves as strong, self-sufficient and worthy.

"I feel like anything is possible," she said.

Furniture created by human trafficking survivors in the Florida Dream Center's Restored Program will be for sale starting Aug. 1 on the center's Facebook Page.

Each piece purchased is tax deductible and is considered a donation to the non-profit.