Since being founded in 2010 by a survivor of human trafficking, the last seven years have proven to be a time of intense growth for The WellHouse. From the humble beginning of one home in the heart of West End, The WellHouse has recently moved to a new campus on 63 acres in St. Clair County. This move has proved to be a tremendous blessing to the residents with many ongoing opportunities. The WellHouse has welcomed over 300 victims of human trafficking who have been sexually exploited.
National awareness of human trafficking is on the rise due in part to increased media coverage. Most continue to view it as a crime isolated to other parts of the globe. However, it is both a national and local issue. Trafficking victims have been identified in cities, suburbs, and rural areas in all 50 states. In many cases, victims are in plain view. The widespread lack of awareness leads to a low ability to identify a victim. Women and girls in sex trafficking situations are often misidentified as voluntarily participating in the sex industry.
The WellHouse offers several areas of programming, including short-term and long-term help.
The Immediate Shelter, their short-term home (below), is where the residents are offered rest and their immediate needs are met. This includes clothing, food, medical care, mental health assessments and an opportunity to obtain important documents which have been taken. The Next Steps to Freedom is the long-term program where more intensive work is done in the areas of life skills training, job skills training, counseling, case management, and mentoring.
The Southeast can be classified as a key area for human trafficking since nearly 40 percent of the major hubs in the US call it home. This is just beginning to be acknowledged, investigated, and prosecuted. I-20 is a key trafficking corridor, making the mission of The WellHouse urgently needed: To honor God by rescuing and providing opportunities for restoration to victims of human trafficking who have been sexually exploited.
October 26th is the annual Chrysalis Project Luncheon. Each year The WellHouse strives to make this event not only a fundraiser for the organization, but also a way to educate the community about human trafficking. The WellHouse also participates in Giving Tuesday in November, and they accept individual donations all year round. The WellHouse exists solely on donations from individuals, groups, and churches that support them. Because of the incredible generosity and support from their donors, they are able to rescue and restore their residents, and get them on a path to recovery!*
The WellHouse has some exciting new projects on the horizon as well. They anticipate to begin construction on the next phase of their program soon, which will be an apartment-style home to accommodate 16 people. It will be used for transitional living for those who complete the long-term program. Given that research shows that having a place to continue healing while working and getting back on one’s feet greatly enhances long term success, they look forward to beginning the transitional living phase and being able to offer the means of continued success to their residents. While in this phase of the program, residents will continue counseling as needed and will meet regularly with their Case Manager. They will develop a budget which will include income paid directly to The WellHouse as rent and utility payments. The WellHouse will save this income and provide it back to the resident upon exiting the program successfully to assist with covering the cost of obtaining their new home.
To see the impact The WellHouse is making, here is the story of one of their residents:
Susan has a fabulously positive attitude even with all the suffering she has experienced. Like so many of our rescued ladies, Susan suffered abuse and neglect as a child: her mother used drugs and her stepfather beat both Susan and her mom. Eventually, he murdered her mother, and, at the age of 15, she met and married a man who introduced her to drugs. She eventually left that situation and entered a relationship where she was both beaten and trafficked. Today, after being at the WellHouse for 3 months, Susan expresses that she is finally finding herself. She describes The WellHouse as an amazing program where she is receiving the tools to allow her to grow and regain her life. She is not fearful of having to go back to another state to testify against her trafficker because she strongly believes that The WellHouse will support her and that this is her home!
name has been changed to protect her identity
To learn more or donate, visit their website at www.the-wellhouse.org