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Michigan shelter helps human trafficking survivors

But Jane White, executive director of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force ... expanding the program to include more homes and residential treatment for men who've been trafficked and boys as well. Deborah hopes telling her story will give people ...

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December 24, 2017 01:01 AM UPDATED December 20, 2017 04:49 PM DETROIT Some were picked up as teenage runaways looking for a way out of volatile homes. Others got hooked on drugs and did whatever it took to finance their addictions, even if it meant selling their bodies. Still others fled their native countries seeking opportunity in the land of the free, only to find themselves trapped in jobs filled with false promises and little pay, threatened with deportation if they complained or tried to leave. The stories of how they got there are all differentBut if there's one thing that's true about most survivors of human trafficking, it's this: Escaping isn't as simple as walking away. (function() { var randomUrl = getRandomUrl(',,'); var eventMethod = window.addEventListener ? "addEventListener" : "attachEvent"; var eventer = window[eventMethod]; var messageEvent = eventMethod == "attachEvent" ? "onmessage" : "message"; $("", { "class" : "col-xs-12", "src" : randomUrl, "scrolling" : "no", "frameborder" : "no" }).appendTo("#newsletter-signUpWidget"); eventer(messageEvent, function(e) { if (randomUrl.indexOf(e.origin) != -1 ) { var key = e.message ? "message" : "data"; var data = JSON.parse(e[key]); switch(data.messageid) { case 100: var signupevent = new CustomEvent( 'signup', {"detail": data} ); window.dispatchEvent( signupevent ); break; case 200: $('#newsletter-signUpWidget iframe').css('height', data.iframe.height); break; } } }, false ); })(); Never miss a local story. Sign up today for unlimited digital access to our website, apps, the digital newspaper and more. SUBSCRIBE NOW Edee Franklin of Huntington Woods describes human trafficking as a snare of tiny strings that pulls victims back again and again. One by one, she's trying to snip those strings to free women who want to get out, but have yet to find a way because they don't have a safe place to live or are without access to drug or alcohol rehab, financial security, job training or an education. Franklin is doing it with Sanctum House, the first human trafficking shelter of its kind in southeastern Michigan. "There are women out there right now that are being raped and brutalized and they are saying, 'Dear God, get me out of this.' And there's a place for themThey just don't know it yet," Franklin said. "Somebody is going to say to them — whether it's at the jail or the ER or the judge — somebody is going to say: 'Well, you can go to a three-night shelter or you can go to jail or you can go to a detox for three weeksYou can go back to your pimp; you can go to the streets or to your abusive family or you can go to Sanctum House if you would like to change your lifeIf you would like to live a transformed life, you can go to Sanctum House for two years.'" "They will come here, and hopefully they will stay." Each survivor who comes to live at Sanctum House will enter a two-year program that includes drug and alcohol rehabilitation as well as education, counseling, job training and support, the Detroit Free Press reported. As many as 95% of the women who've been trafficked are drug addicted, Franklin said, so treatment for addiction is an important part of the program. "We'd like them to say, 'I'd like to change my lifeI'm tired of it.' We hope that it will take the first time, and that they won't have to relapse." It'll be a safe haven for women like Deborah, whose own trafficking story began when she was just 13 years old at the Jackson County Fair. Deborah's mother was a drug addict and disappeared when her daughter was 10Her father was an alcoholic and was overwhelmed by the sudden plunge into single parenthoodShe and her brothers were placed in foster care, shifting from house to house. Hopelessness took rootOne of her foster parents confirmed Deborah's biggest fear, that she didn't care about Deborah and didn't love her. "For me, that was really devastating because all I really wanted was someone to care about me," said Deborah, who is now 51 and living independently in metro Detroit as a peer-to-peer counselor for human trafficking survivorsThe Free Press has agreed not to use her full name. Feeling unwanted, vulnerable and alone, Deborah tried to make a hodgepodge family of her own. "I went to the fair," she said"My intentions were to leave with the fairI thought that on TV, you see the bearded woman or the stretch guyYou know, they were different, but they were a familySo my intention that day was to find those people and be a part of their family. "I felt like that's where I would fit inI was different." She didn't find circus people at the fairInstead, she bumped into a young man she'd never seen beforeHe bought her a hot dog, listened to her, and showed her a level of kindness that Deborah had rarely seen in her young life. He drove her around town, and gave Deborah alcoholHe took her to Detroit for the night, and put her up at a motel on 8 MileThe next day, he took her back to Jackson and gave her an hour to decide whether she'd like to stay with him or return to foster care. She chose him. "At that point, I still didn't know what his intentions were," she said"I was a virgin at the time, so I had sex with him..The next night, he took me to the establishment, which was called the Crestwood, and I went to work." That's how Deborah got drawn into having sex for money arranged by a pimp, the only adult who had ever cared for her. "Within the first week, I seen him physically assault a girlWell, I didn't see him assault her, but when he brought her back down, he said, 'If any of you try to leave me, the same thing will happen to you.' I had heard the girl screamingWhen he brought her down and she was beat up, the message was to all of us that you're not going to walk away from here, you're going to crawl." "I had never seen anything like that, and so I tried to be on my best behavior so I wouldn't get in trouble." For decades, Deborah followed her pimp from 8 Mile to Washington, D.C., to New York and Las Vegas, and all over the country where there were major events laced with JohnsShe was arrested, repeatedly. She remembers clearly the first time police took her inShe was 14Because she was a child, Deborah was taken to a juvenile detention center in Detroit. "The only person who could come get me was my dad," she said"And he was told that I was in an area of prostitution and drugsI don't know if it was because he was ashamed or because he just didn't really care, but he said he wasn't coming to get meHe said that he wasn't going to lose time from work to come and get me. "And so I sat there for almost two weeks." Her father finally showed upBut instead of taking her home to Jackson, her dad drove her back to her pimp. "He dropped me off at the house of the person who was trafficking me," Deborah said"And that person paid him what he would have made at work that day, which was about 80 bucks, and then my dad left. Her pimp said, "'I told you that nobody else cared about you but me.' It just validated everything that he had been saying to me." She remembers trying to run awayIt was after a night of hooking at a hotel near Metro AirportDeborah knew she hadn't made enough cash to satisfy her pimp. "I called him and ..he told me that when I got home that night, I was going to have trouble," Deborah said"I just assumed I would get beat up when I got home, so I didn't go homeInstead, I got on a plane and I flew to Washington, D.CTwo days after I got to Washington, he showed up, caught me on a stroll and beat me up there and then took me back to Detroit. "When they say, 'I can find you wherever you go,' you have to believe thatEspecially when they show up and find you in another state.' " Deborah started using cocaine as a way to escapeSoon, it spiraled into a crack addiction. "When I got high, I didn't care anymore about how you treated me," she said"I didn't careIt became a coping mechanism. "I ran off to get highIt just became more important" than anything else in her life. She ran away from her pimp a couple more times, but she said, "He caught meHe would take me back home, but I would leave again because I wanted to get high." Eventually, her pimp went to prison. "The FBI came to me ..and asked me, did (I) know him? And how did I know him? Was I one of his prostitutes?" "I liedI said, 'NopeHe's never forced me to do anythingI was doing this before I met him, will continue to do it when he's gone, blah, blah.'" Deborah lied, she said, "because I cared about himI didn't want to see him in troubleHe got 18 years." It was then, she said, that she was at the lowest point in her lifeShe went to prison too. "I was really at the bottom of the barrel," she said"It was full-blown addiction by that timeUp until then, I was still working the streets because that's all I knewI was 37 years old, something like that, and I was still working the streets. "I had never held a jobI didn't have any educationI stopped going to school in 8th gradeThat was the only way I knew how to survive or take care of myselfWhen I was in prison, I had time to think about what I was doing to myself and to my life. "I had three kids while I was out there in addictionI thought about what I was doing to my kids what my mother did to meAnd so I decided that I wanted to make some changes but I didn't know how to do it." At that time, there were no housing programs to help women like Deborah. "I was always looked at as a criminal," she said"I was never looked at as a victimThere was no programsIt was difficult to stay out of that lifestyle because it's almost like an addiction in itself. "That's why Sanctum House is so important." Franklin first began to dream about Sanctum house four years ago. "I believe that everybody, when they try to do anything in their life, they look back into their own lifetime experience," she said"I was a woman at risk." She started drinking when she was young, and was in an unhappy marriage. "I was working on my master's degree on Wayne State's campus and everybody was a hippieI thought, 'I could do this.' You know?" She tried marijuana, which led her to heroinFranklin divorced her husband and fell for a drug dealer. "I was with him six or seven years, a long time," she said"I got out because I got arrested, and I was facing prison timeI was like 'Wake up! You're going to go to jailThat's not good.' I had already been arrested a few times, so I was already a convicted felon. "I got remanded by the court to stay in a facility until I was graduatedAnd I thought, 'Well, you can't leaveYou have to do this.' So I just did itI really didn't have a choice to do it. "The only way out is throughIf you don't face the pain and address the pain and what's really wrong and be honest with yourself, you're never going to change." She's been clean for 30 years, and is now a real estate brokerFranklin has sponsored many other women suffering from addiction. Once the idea for Sanctum House came to her, Franklin worked every day toward making it happen. "I started to learn, and I joined task forces and I went to conferences and I did all these different things so I could become educated, see what was missing and do the best I could do," Franklin said"I came to find out there are less than 20 beds around the state of Michigan for long-term treatment of survivors of human traffickingThere's less than 500 beds in the country." She found an ally in Karen Moore, a retired Ford Motor Coexecutive, who joined her as the executive director of Sanctum HouseThey applied for grants and were awarded a $675,000 grant over three years from the Office on Trafficking in Persons through the Department of Health and Human Services. They found a safe house that can sleep as many as 16 women — two to a room — with a large kitchen, two sets of washers and dryers and plenty of common areas for socializing. More donations started to roll inThe Sisters of Mercy gave them nearly $30,000And they got a $50,000 challenge grant this year from the A.A Van Elslander Foundation. And yet, Franklin estimates the annual operating cost of Sanctum House to be about $560,000 a year for sustainability and program growth. Donations and volunteers are vitalMoore and Franklin have already lined up dozens of community partners to help them in their mission. Trinity Health has offered to provide medical care for the womenVisiting nurses from the University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University come to the house weekly to provide additional services to residents. Detroit's Mercy Education Project is to work with Sanctum House to assess the women's educational needs, helping them work toward obtaining their general education diploma (GED). "The outpouring of support from the community is incredible," Moore said"We have a social worker who is experienced with this population; she's giving us one day a weekSo every Thursday, she's going to take the women to a therapy appointment." "At the same time, we'll be getting them employmentSome of these women can have quite long records, felonies, so we are working with organizations that will provide them with an opportunity for employment." "So if they want to be an engineer or a nurse or psychology, we'll help them get to schoolWe will provide that for them." In addition, Sanctum House employees and volunteers will teach survivors life skills like how to do laundry, how to cook, clean, balance a checkbook, shop for groceries and more. "It's all those life skills that were never learned," Moore said"Those are things you learn because you're at home with your mom and dadThese women maybe missed out on that. "The goal is not to save them, but to provide them with the life skills and the tools to be independent on their own through education, physical and mental health." It took Deborah years to leave behind the only life she ever knew. "I was able to stay clean off drugs, but I still continued to engage in risky behavior, working on the streets," she said"I worked on getting my own place through the means of prostitutionAnd then, I was able to get my kids back, and I realized I needed some help." She enrolled in community mental health services through Oakland County and started therapy to try to break the bonds that still connected her to her pimp. "There, I was able to talk about the trauma, the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), work on regulating my emotions, and not allowing him to have so much control over me," Deborah said. "Even though he was out of my life, he still had a lot of controlIt took three years of one-on-one therapy..They talked about Stockholm syndrome because I would protect him — and today I still would protect him — because there's that emotional connectionEven though it wasn't good, he like raised meYou have kids who have bad parents but they still love their parentsThat's the only way I can explain it."

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