By: Michelle Caceres
It’s not often that a charitable organization gets an email from a random stranger asking if it would like a house but Selah Freedom president and CEO Elizabeth Melendez Fisher said that’s exactly what happened and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Sarasota-based organization, whose sole focus is ending human trafficking and sexual exploitation on Florida’s Gulf Coast, has been busy fighting the $32 billion criminal industry.
“Sadly, ever since the doors opened to our first safe house, we’ve had to turn countless women away due to a lack of space,” she stated. “With the addition of this new home in Hillsborough County, we are grateful for the opportunity to help victims become survivors.”
The house, which has been decorated by the generous assistance of Major League Baseball families, is expected to receive its first residents in June and will be utilized by Selah Freedom and Created, a Tampa charity that offers outreach and advocacy programs for sex trafficking victims.
Residents will stay at the home for four to six weeks and begin the long journey of rest, healing and recovery. After needs have been assessed by live-in coaches they enter a longer-term residential house or other program. Victims receive monitoring services, support and recovery groups (some victims suffer from drug addiction), counseling, life skill training and GED support as well as job placement.
On hand at a recent event to celebrate the opening of the house was Florida State representative Ross Spano, who has been influential in passing legislation that increases penalties for pimping and trafficking as well as solicitation of prostitution.
“We’ve come a long way in the last few years,” he said. “We are sending a very clear message that we are serious about this issue.”
With its expansion, Selah Freedom is in need of support and donations now more than ever. In addition to cash donations to help fund the operating expenses of its residential facilities, current needs include $10-$50 gift cards to Target or Wal-Mart for its outreach team, $5 – $25 gift cards to McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A or Little Caesar’s for its prevention team, umbrellas, copy paper and Keurig coffee pots and regular coffee K-cups. Volunteer opportunities are also available. “We need people to share their time and talents to help these women find hope and healing,” said Fisher.
For more information about Selah Freedom, to make a donation or get involved in ending human trafficking in our area visit www.selahfreedom.com or call 941-677-8840. For more information about Created visit www.createdwomen.com.