Two local groups are partnering to announce the establishment of a new shelter dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking–the first of its kind in Central Virginia.
Local nonprofit Safe Harbor Shelter has teamed up with Bon Secours Richmond Health System to open The Central Virginia Emergency Shelter for Human Trafficking Victims. The facility will provide shelter, counseling, safety planning, and case management in a single location to adult female human trafficking victims.
The two entities say the primary goal of the shelter will be to provide victims fleeing their traffickers with immediate safe housing. Once safe, secure housing is established, staff will assist with addressing legal and emotional support needs, including learning life skills, gaining meaningful employments, completing education and securing safe, affordable housing.
The initiative is largely the result of a $500,000 grant provided to Safe Harbor through the Department of Criminal Justice Services VOCA New Initiative Victim Assistance Grant Program. The grant will help hire staff, provide essential equipment and supplies to the operation of the shelter and define program development, among other items.
According to statistics from Bon Secours, many of the victims of human trafficking have not received basic medical care in years. The hospital system will address medical needs of the victims, including emergency and primary medical care for shelter residents. Forensic nurses from Bon Secours Forensic Nursing Program–a group of nurses specially trained to collect evidence from victims of physical abuse and sexual violence, including human trafficking–will also assist in helping victims recover and get back on their feet.
The shelter, the location of which is being kept confidential for safety reasons, is scheduled to open in January and will initially provide shelter to 15 residents, with plans to expand to house 25 in 2018.
“The shelter’s ultimate goal is to help victim’s live independent and happy lives,” said Cathy Easter, Executive Director of Safe Harbor, in a news release about the program. “Since our opening in 2000 as an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims, we have been growing increasingly concerned with the amount of human trafficking that goes on in Central Virginia. Through the shelter’s unique aspect of providing services in a single location, we will be able to reduce the impact of trauma on these victims.
The Henrico County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office has prosecuted more cases involving human trafficking offenses than any other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, highlighting the need for a dedicated facility for victims of this type of crime.
“These women need a place to build a life again,” said Easter. “This shelter [will provide] the entire package of help, in one location.”