CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Human trafficking survivors urgently need help more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic.
A new resource could save the lives of survivors here in northeast Ohio.
19 Investigates continues to follow how advocates are fighting an uphill battle, but not giving up hope.
A nondescript building at the corner of East 105th and Superior in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland could transform lives next year.
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center just announced plans for a drop-in center here to provide survivors with food, shelter and a helping hand.
Human trafficking is a $30 billion dollar industry selling people against their will.
It’s the second-largest criminal industry in the world.
And Ohio has ranked as high as fifth in the U.S. with total reported cases.
Now, on the east side of Cleveland, there will be a place for survivors to go for help.
“First and foremost we just want to be a safe place for people to get some reprieve,” said
Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
She believes this drop-in center, scheduled to open in early 2021, will break barriers that keep survivors from reaching out for help.
“They don’t need an appointment, they don’t need to have any formal referral, they can just stop in and let us know that they’re someone who’s experienced some trauma and they’re looking for a safe place to get some help,” Miller said.
Those survivors may not be getting the help they so desperately need during the pandemic.
Calls to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline are down 50 percent for the first half of 2020, 19 Investigates reported about two weeks ago.
But trafficking isn’t stopping any time soon.
The drop-in center will provide services like:
• Basic Needs – clothing, hygiene, food and daytime shelter
• Trauma Recovery – mental health counseling, addiction rehabilitation and victim advocacy
• Self-Sufficiency – workforce training, life and parent coaching
“Sometimes survivors might need a place to stop in and get some coffee and get something to eat, maybe they need to take a shower, or do a load of laundry. And if that’s what they need in that moment, that’s what’s available to them,” Miller said.
Long-term help and a pathway out is also available when they need it, more helpful than ever as the coronavirus pandemic continues on.
“So many people are isolated in situations where they’re really vulnerable to their traffickers or abusers, they’re really not in a place where they can leave, they’re not being exposed to other people who can help them,” she said.
19 Investigates found the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center chose the east side of Cleveland for its drop-in center after an assessment found that’s where the biggest gap in services is.
If you need help, you can call their 24-hour hotline, Project STAR at 855-431-7827.