New home for sex trafficking survivors breaks ground
A lifeline for the survivors of sex trafficking is breaking ground in Clackamas County this month.
Local nonprofit A Village for One is building a haven for girls who have been sexually exploited. The project has the backing of a $500,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Human Services and donations from the area construction industry.
"We see victims from every social-economic status, from every background, from every racial and ethnic group," said Cassie Trahan, the executive director and co-founder of A Village for One.
"These are kids who are born here, raised here — sold here."
Starting in spring 2020, the residential facility will provide trauma-informed care and behavioral rehabilitation services to six or seven female minors, who will live at the four-acre property while in Human Services custody. The residence will have a full kitchen, office, classroom and common space, in a model known as "therapeutic housing."
Rotating staffers and a dedicated mental health therapist will ensure 24-hour support. The goal is to get the patients back in school and equipped with the social and independent living skills they need in order to leave the home after 12 to 14 months.
Daniel C. Lorenz, a Portland attorney who serves on Village for One's board of directors, said the home is the first attempt to fill the gap after Athena House, a residential program for trafficking survivors, was shuttered by Multnomah County in 2017.
"A Village for One is not the end all, be all. It is the beginning," said Lorenz, who has served as an appointed advocate for trafficking victims in Oregon federal court. "If we don't begin the process of finding a model that works, we're never going to solve this issue."
Construction of the center — which is so new it hasn't been named yet —also was supported by a $50,000 gift from the foundation of the Home Builders Association, whose members have donated fixtures, siding, paint, dumpsters, doors and other services as well.
Trahan graduated from Tualatin High School and went on to earn degrees from Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University. Before co-founding the nonprofit in 2012, she heard stories from sex trafficking survivors first hand while working as a mental health clinician.
"I've worked with kids who have been moved as far as Florida to be sold," she said. "The legal sex industry can hide the illegal sale of people."
The 37-year-old dispels the myth that domestic sex trafficking is solely a "big city" problem. In reality, trafficking happens in every community. Trahan says trafficking ensnares girls, boys and transgender youth.
"These kids are amazing," Trahan said. "They're extremely resilient. But when you hear their stories, it paints an entirely different picture."
How to help
• A Village for One's annual banquet and auction will be held this year at the Portland Hilton on Saturday, Sept. 21. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available online at www.avillageforone.org.
• Another fundraiser is planned at Willamette Ale & Cider House, 1720 Willamette Falls Drive, in West Linn on Monday, Sept. 9. Stop by between 4 and 10 p.m.
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