|November 20, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 20 • Oakland, CA|
Gift of Giving
'Radical answer' to assisting victims
of commercial sexual exploitation
Renovations are underway to create a 13-bedroom home for young women, ages 12 to 17, who have been the victims of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
The journey has been a long one, CCEB CEO Chuck Fernandez told a Catholic Charities USA gathering this summer.
The young women Claire's House has set out to serve have a history of being let down by people they should have been able to trust, he said. "We were not going to be the people who let them down."
Consulting others who tried — and some who have failed — to be able to serve young people in similar situations, Catholic Charities of the East Bay set out to build a model. The hiring of Leah Kimble-Price, a third-generation resident of Oakland and social worker with a track record of working with sexually exploited youth, was a turning point in creating that plan.
Claire's House will be the home for the young women; each will have her own room. The house staff will help provide a home-like environment. The residents will have the opportunity to return to school. They will work with clinicians and care managers who will help them rebuild their lives.
After the first of the year, parishioners throughout the Diocese of Oakland will have the opportunity to take part in mentoring training and CSEC (commercially sexually exploited children) education through Day Star, the outreach and community engagement arm of Claire's House.
One goal is to train two mentors — a man and a woman — in each parish. Joy Thompson, who directs the program, said people who are active in their parish and neighborhood are excellent candidates. "People who are comfortable being a resource," Thompson said.
In addition to educating their fellow parishioners about the issues — "increase awareness, decrease demand," Thompson said — they can help mobilize support for legislation to assist victims and prevent future victims.
Day Star will also train youth mentors, who will work with residents of not only Claire's House, but DreamCatcher Emergency Youth Shelter.
Day Star will also be the source of training and technical assistance for other organizations who are seeking to do work in this field.
To volunteer or receive information, contact Thompson at email@example.com.
The East Bay is the right place for this therapeutic living community for young women who have been exploited and trafficked.
"We're the international hub for child trafficking," Leah Kimble-Price told the Catholic Charities USA gathering this summer. "Eighty percent of the trafficking cases in California are prosecuted in Oakland," she said.
The talk drew a large crowd at the event, with representatives of several agencies eyeing the prospect of opening their own programs.
"We want to be able to replicate this model," Kimble-Price said. "We want to share this model."
The business model was enticing: Claire's House will operate as a residential placement through the state of California's Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program. As such, a housing fee of $12,036 monthly per resident will be paid to Claire's House. Based on staffing structure, additional revenue will be generated by clinicians and case managers.
Residential placements for commercially sexually exploited children are few. Nationwide, less than 500 beds are available for commercially sexually exploited children. In California, there are 50. In the Bay Area, there are none.
"We can do intervention, get kids off the streets and prevention," Kimble-Price said. "But what do we do once they've been trafficked?"
Group homes, she said, often don't want to take commercially sexually exploited children, fearing other residents will be recruited. Families might be unable to take the children home.
"What we're offering is a radical response," Kimble-Price said. "What we're offering is a therapeutic living community designed as a house," she said. "We're designing it, we're creating best practices, with advice from community partnerships."
Making Claire's House an attractive alternative to their former life is a challenge.
Claire's House will "make something so attractive relationally than what they're coming from," Kimble-Price said. "You can't compete financially, we don't want to compete in terms of the trauma bond. What can we offer? You have your own room. It's a 12-bed facility, we're single occupancy."
If a resident leaves, Kimble-Price said, the reaction would be along the lines of, "You've been gone three days. You're not answering your phone. We looked for you in all the places. You've donated your bed to your sister."
Concerns about traffickers coming to the house are lessened by what Kimble-Price called the "disposable" nature of sex trafficking. "A trafficker is not going to spend the time and energy to go after that girl," she said. "He's going to find another girl."
Kimble-Price's office is at Claire's House. It will be staffed by 28 people; the original expectation had been a staff of five to eight.
The annual budget, when Claire's House is fully up and running, will be $2.2 million to $2.4 million, Fernandez said.
"Because of the funding sources, it fully pays for itself," Kimble-Price added.
There is hope that Claire's House will have an impact greater than the dozen young women it serves.
"We wanted to create a model that can sweep across the state, and sweep across the country," said Stephen Mullen, parish engagement manager for CCEB.
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