Human trafficking has become somewhat of a buzzword today and we hear about it regularly happening in other countries, which is appalling as it is. But it was a huge shock to me when I realized just how big of an issue human trafficking is right here in Orange County, right in our own backyard. Last year, Orange County Rescue Mission launched a new program called Strong Beginnings to provide services to human trafficking victims as a compassionate and strategic response to this tragedy.
In Orange County alone 284 human trafficking victims were able to be identified in a one year time period – and this does not include the huge number of victims too difficult to identify. Of the 284 identified victims, 261 were females and 74 were minors. As I said, I was shocked to hear these facts and we have taken a stand to care for these victims. Our Strong Beginnings program offers emergency housing, so that when a woman is ready to escape, she has a place to go. Strong Beginnings includes the same services within our Village of Hope program, as well as specific services to meet the unique needs of human trafficking victims. Our response provides trauma-informed care through our victim-centered approach, and we coordinate out outreach efforts with organizations trained for on-the-street interventions.
I invite you to take a look at the Strong Beginnings video to learn more about human trafficking in Orange County. You’ll hear from some of our partners, including Julie Wood with SEND Ministries at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Kevin Brown from Side-By-Side Church International, giving us a look into the issue and how they are invested in this cause. By God’s leading, we have already begun to see an incredible impact on the lives of women leaving lives of pain and darkness, and I look forward to seeing what 2019 has in store for this ministry.