Local organization creates haven for sex trafficking victims

Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

By Raegan Turner | Staff Writer

While Waco may be known as a buzzing college town or the home of Magnolia Market, unfortunately, it also happens to be a sex trafficking hub. Waco sits between Dallas and Houston, which are two of the top estimated sex trafficking cities in the United States, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline. Moreover, according to Data USA, almost 30 percent of Waco’s population is impoverished which also contributes to the problem.

Sex Trafficking is defined as, “The recruitment, harboring, transportation or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act (including pornography and stripping) in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age” according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.”

That is where SHE is Freedom, a nonprofit organization, emerges in the city of Waco. The organization focuses on providing home for victims of sex trafficking. More specifically, the shelter they provide is supposed to be a “safe place to heal, learn, grow, and dream” for the victims according to their website.

Rose Brugger, assistant director of SHE is Freedom, described the current goal of the organization: to open a shelter for victims of sex trafficking.

“SHE is Freedom is an organization that is opening a drop-in center for girls who are survivors and at risk of sex-trafficking. We initially plan to open only during day hours, but our long-term plan is to have a 24/7 facility that can keep girls for up to 90 days.” Brugger said.

The shelter was preparing to open in December, but it is still in need of a significant amount of work. Brugger outlines the completed renovations; however, she explains the ever-present need for helping hands.

“We have been renovating the facility by bringing in teams to paint and clean. Our main project right now is to finish these renovations and furnish the center. We are also doing a comfort-item drive, under the direction of our marketing and outreach coordinator, Elizabeth Wallace,” Brugger said.

Dallas senior Elizabeth Wallace, outreach coordinator of SHE is Freedom and member of UnBound College, has recently organized and supervised a comfort drive in order to gather donations of blankets, pillows, rugs and bedding. She explains the need and encourages Baylor students to find way to donate.

“We really really need bedding, pillows and rugs. Let this be an offering this week or give up buying coffee this week. Use your tip money in this this week. These items are going directly to girls who need them, and we have 50 rooms to furnish,” Wallace said.

For those wanting to assist the shelter, volunteers are needed to help paint, clean and do various DIY projects including installing toilets and laying floors. People interested in volunteering can email Rose Brugger at rose@sheisfreedom.org.