First responders for human trafficking? The Salvation Army has a new initiative to help survivors. It’s yet another sad reality of human trafficking. Agencies that want to help survivors don’t know where to take them.
“Law enforcement would have to take them to jail," said Edie Rhea, "Sometimes they wouldn’t even have a place to take them.”
Rhea knows trafficking personally. At just 10 years old her mother’s boyfriend sold her to numerous men. The abuse lasted another seven years.
Today, as founder of Healing Root Ministry, she helps survivors get the therapy and support they need.
TAMPA, Fla. — “The ladies that are going to be rescued--this is going to be life changing," she said.
While Rhea's non-profit does a lot to help these survivors, it can’t be there the moment they’re rescued. Ready with a bed, food, and counseling. But the Salvation Army wants to be that first line of defense with their new Tampa Bay Anti-Trafficking Alliance.
“We’re kind of like the ER for housing, and the ER for people who want to get out of human trafficking," said Captain Andy Miller of the Salvation Army.
So how does it work? Thanks to some help from a $200,000 grant from the Department of Justice, they’ve trained their staff to be ready to respond at any moment night or day. They can recognize the signs of trafficking and help them through the trauma.
“There’s not another organization or place that’s doing that," said Rhea.
Most importantly are the beds.They’ve finally got a safe space where survivors can stay. The survivor's journey continues as staff connects them to specialized care. That’s what their non-profit partnerships, like Rhea's, can offer.
“Female sex trafficking, if there’s labor trafficking. If there is substance abuse," explained Miller.
The way the Salvation Army sees it, survivors can’t afford to wait on the current system. Looking at the bigger picture, they believe this initiative will not only help survivors but our community.
“As we move people from the street to their feet then they get established jobs and established in society," said Miller.
It’s progress Rhea calls “overwhelming" but in a definite good way.
“That’s powerful. That’s amazing. We need other organizations to also do the same," she said.
In the future, the Salvation Army is exploring adding to their growing list of non-profits in their alliance.