Plans unveiled for Richmond area human trafficking shelter

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Plans for the first shelter dedicated to victims of human trafficking in Central Virginia were revealed Wednesday morning.

“He was a complete gentleman, he was clean cut didn’t look like what we think a pimp would look like,” said Tanya Street.

A few months ago, 8News spoke with Street, a human trafficking survivor. Then a teenager she became a victim of trafficking after her boyfriend, ten years her senior, convinced her to start prostituting. Two years later after working up and down the east coast,

“I was abandoned on the side of the road somewhere in the D.C. area,” said Street.

Her story is one of hundreds of thousands who are trafficked every year according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Now victims in Central Virginia will have a place to go. Bon Secours Health System and Safe Harbor, a non-profit that helps survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, are joining forces to help open a first of its kind shelter in the Richmond area.

“This is really a life changer,” said Cathy Easter with Safe Harbor.

Easter says often victims were sent out of state for shelter and many times victims that wished to stay in the area only had a hotel as an option.

“Putting a human trafficking victim in a hotel is the worst thing possible because that’s returning them to where they were victimized,” said Easter.

The shelter will be in a confidential location and will provide help to 15 people next year eventually increasing its capacity to 25 residents. There they will receive support and free medical care from Bon Secours.

“Some of them have not seen a doctor in years and have a long list of medical needs,” said Easter.

The hospital says it believes it’s the community’s duty to help these victims.

“They need all of our eyes to be wide open to traffic that is happening all around us,” said Peter McCourt with Bon Secours.

The group is using a $500,000 grant to help establish the shelter which will help in hiring staff, purchase equipment, and develop programs with the goal of helping the victims live independent and happy lives.

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