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Helping the victims of human trafficking

By Kimberly Perkins

Special to the Salisbury Post

CHARLOTTE — Modern-day slavery is taking place in our backyard. Human trafficking is not only the third-largest crime globally, it is a huge local issue. North Carolina is consistently ranked as a top 10 state for trafficking with the Charlotte region being No. 1 in the state. Our highway systems make it easy to bring victims in and out. Our seasonal industries make labor a necessity. Our conventions and sporting events bring additional people into our cities and increase the demand for the sex trafficking.

There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human trafficking in this $32 billion industry. Traffickers use violence, threats and deception to force people into commercial sex or services against their will.

After rescue, what?

Fortunately, some victims escape or are rescued by law enforcement. Now what? This horror may have ended but if there is no one to ease their transition back into society, the fear and abandonment continues. Most all the rescued victims suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. The women have no personal identification and few or no survival resources.

Lily Pad Haven, located in the Charlotte region, provides emergent and transitional housing for victims of human trafficking. This nonprofit organization provides the comfort and protection of a healing, loving home to restore the body, mind and spirit. Its focus is an integrated system of care in collaboration with internal programs and community partners.

Since its first guest in June 2012, it has housed 54 guests and their children and provided over 5,000 nights of safe housing. Starting with one home, it now supports a network of homes in the region, with a vision of one day having Lily Pad Haven homes all over the country. The average length of stay for guests is four to 12 months. They receive housing, in-home counseling and case management, and connections to valuable community resources and partnerships to fulfill our mission of providing an integrated system of care.

In Salisbury

The latest Lily Pad Haven home is located in Salisbury. Haven Lutheran Church initially reached out to Lily Pad Haven and was later joined by St. John’s Lutheran Church in their passion to make a difference in the community.

The home was renovated through a grant from the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Lily Pad Haven is an ecumenical organization and seeks ecumenical support and volunteers from across Rowan County.

For more information on recognizing the signs of human trafficking or getting involved with the work of Lily Pad Haven, visit lilypadhaven.org.

Kimberly Perkins is executive director of Lily Pad Haven in the Charlotte region.

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