A year ago at this time, South Florida was preparing for the Super Bowl and, unfortunately, the rise of sex trafficking that often accompanies large events in Miami. Local and national attention focused on sex trafficking and ways to prevent it. But what about the rest of the time? How do we deal with human trafficking when the national spotlight is not on us?
Enter Kristi House - Project Gold.
Since 2007, Kristi House – Project Gold, which stands for Girls Owning their Lives and Dreams, has brought the legal and provider community together to combat child sex trafficking. The program operates a drop-in center for girls 12-18 using a strength based survivor approach to provide health, social and legal services linkages, mental health support, and educational enrichment to sexually exploited girls.
“The drop-in center is literally a house we use to emulate a home life environment for the girls,” said Program Manager Bradel Canfield. “We go around and pick up the girls in Miami. We have family style meals every night where we all sit around and engage and that’s a very important part of the program.” It also provides mentors for the girls. “For someone who has experienced complex trauma it can feel like you are separate of the world. When you meet with a survivor mentor it’s like ‘someone does get it.’ There is that sense of relatability, that bridge of developing trust.”
Therapist Amanda Matthews-Pace said Project Gold is an empowering and safe venue for girls to deal with complex trauma. “Many of the girls don’t even realize that they’ve experienced some kind of trafficking or trauma because if it’s happening to their friends its normal,” she said. “A lot of times they are tricked into doing these thing.”
Project Gold Director Marta Martinez explained that one of the greatest measures of success of the program was the continued relationships it builds with victims. “The girls continue to come back no matter what,” she said. Even so, more work needs to be done.
“So long as there is trafficking, the job is never done.”
Kristi House – Project Gold was honored as one a Champions for Children Program of the Year by The Children’s Trust. To watch a video on the program, visit www.TheChildrensTrust.org/Champions.