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Set Free Refuge opens transitional home for human trafficking survivors

Standing in a freshly painted and decorated room, a young woman stands with suitcases in hand taking in the sunshine from the large windows in the living and dining room areas. Two women greet her and say, “Welcome home.” The young woman is in awe of the beautiful space and the reality that this is a new start to the rest of her life. She is shown her new room and bathroom with all the necessities from newly purchased sheets and towels to the small touches of a new hairbrush on the bathroom counter.

Marcie Rey Landreth, Executive Director of Set Free Refuge Inc. recounted her experience brining in the very first young woman to live in their transitional home The Refuge.

 “In that moment, I was reminded of all the hard work myself, Skip Orth and Gabi Keele put into making this happen,” Landreth said.

Landreth went on to talk about the support she received from the community in stocking The Refuge.

“The outpouring and generosity were overwhelming. Countless members of the community contacted us wanting to give mattresses, furniture, you name it they brought it,” Landreth said. “This is what a community does – meet the need. There are just so many people to thank.”

The Refuge opened Feb. 11, 2022, as a transitional home for young women ages 18 to 24 who have aged out of foster care system. The residents are survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The home provides a one-year program that helps young women develop the necessary skills to live on their own.

The Refuge provides an alternative to entering back into daily life after human trafficking, Landreth said.

“Once someone has been sexually abused and exploited as a child, they are more vulnerable of becoming trafficked or abused again,” Landreth explained. “Unfortunately, some of these young women were trafficked by their own family members and entering back into their family structure places them in danger again.”

Set Free Refuge Inc. is creating a community of love and support for these young women at The Refuge.

Young women at The Refuge have a Residential Coach who helps them with creating daily schedules, budgeting, and activities like cooking and cleaning. A requirement for housing is to be working part-time or be in school. In addition, there is a Peer Mentor who helps the young women with creating personal and professional goals. These goals may look like getting their driver’s license or applying for cosmetology school.

When asked “Why do you want to participate in The Refuge?” a recent resident said, “I need a fresh start.”

Landreth says what Set Free Refuge needs now are financial partners to commit to giving monthly.

“Caring for these young women requires more than a person who checks in with them daily, it requires an investment of yourself, time, and money,” she said. “We have to provide them with unconditional love to counteract the abuse from their trafficker.”

These young women were told that they had to perform to get their basic needs met.

“We want to be able to meet their basic needs and wants and show them that their value is in who they are and not what they can do,” Landreth said. “It requires a mind shift and a heart shift and that is what Set Free Refuge Inc. is in the business of doing.”  

To partner with Set Free Refuge, Inc. you can visit their website at SetFreeRefuge.org or contact them at 850-463-5191.

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