Roanoke shelter for human trafficking victims in the works - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Roanoke shelter for human trafficking victims in the works

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A downtown Roanoke group is in the process of starting a shelter for human trafficking victims, becoming what they say is one of the first places in Virginia to offer a place of security for victims and community education.

For more than year Straight Street has been gathering information to one day help victims of human trafficking.

"As a Christian ministry we feel it's our role to help the orphans and widows. When you think of a kid who's been coerced, neglected, abducted and sold into this form of slavery it breaks your heart," said Keith Farmer, the Straight Street director.  

Farmer is working with the Georgia group Wellspring Living, who has worked with victims of human trafficking for more than a decade running a shelter and helping more than 200 teens and women and often have a waiting list. Wellspring Living now mentors others across the U.S. to provide similar services.

"Helping them with finding locations, developing their board, hiring staff, building policies and procedures. Really what we want to do is set them up for a good foundation so they can hit the ground running," said Mary Frances Bowley, the president and founder of Wellspring. "The girls we serve have been through horrific storms and they need someone to hold an umbrella of protection over them."

Farmer says short term Straight Street wants to provide emergency shelter and long term a program that would provide healing and recovery.

"You've been in it for years it's not quick fix. It takes a lot of time to heal from those pains and we want to be a part of the recovery process," said Farmer.

Wellspring says it takes at least a year to get these types of programs up and running. Bowley says they've have mentored about 20 groups in the last few years and provided training many more organizations and agencies.

Farmer says they still have to find a shelter location, staff and money. He estimates the annual shelter operational costs to be about $500,000.

Part of the Straight Street efforts will be focused on educating our community about what human trafficking looks like. They will host training and movie nights showing Nefarious, a documentary about human trafficking. We'll keep you posted on when you can attend.

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