SPECIAL TO THE JOURNAL
On Jan. 19, Holly Bunn, Development Officer of The WellHouse in Odenville, Alabama, was special guest of the Luverne Kiwanis Club and spoke about the horrors of human trafficking of women in Alabama and throughout the United States. Human trafficking has occurred if a person was induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. Ms. Bunn stated, “The WellHouse exists to honor God by rescuing and providing opportunities for restoration to female victims of human trafficking who have been sexually exploited. The WellHouse is a 24-hour shelter offering immediate assistance to trafficked women.”
The WellHouse rescues victims from all over the U. S., with a concentration in the Southeast. Birmingham has been identified as one of six major hubs in the south for human trafficking. Commercial sex is estimated to be a $110 million industry in the Birmingham area, partly due to the proximity to Atlanta. The 40 mile stretch between Birmingham and Atlanta is often dubbed the sex trafficking super-highway. Ms. Bunn stated that they recently received women from a bust in Montgomery. No area is safe from this horrific crime.
Victims are referred by law enforcement, street outreach partners, hospitals, shelters, and more. The rescued woman is provided emergency shelter and stabilization in the Trauma Center where they are welcomed into a retreat of calm, safety, and rest.
Survivors are sheltered for up to four months in the short term home, The Immediate Shelter. They are provided food, clothing, and medical care, assisted in regaining identification, offered individual and group therapy, opportunities for spiritual growth, and substance abuse recovery.
They are accommodated for up to 12 months in the long term program, Next Steps to Freedom, where they are equipped with job skills, assisted with educational goals (GED, college), and provided transportation. Life skills classes, including financial literacy, cooking, group exercise, and more are provided.
All therapy programs are continued as graduates are supplied with a transitional living program, Next Steps to Independence. They are secured in full time employment and helped to find safe, sustainable, permanent housing after exiting. Ongoing counseling and case management is offered.
Funding for The WellHouse comes from private and corporate donations and grants. Ms. Bunn invited guests to visit The WellHouse online at The WellHouse.org and consider supporting this important work.