Florida Baptist Children's Homes' initiative to help light the way
The Porch Light’s first safe home for sex-trafficking victims set to open
Aug 5, 2014
By FBCH STAFF
LAKELAND (FBCH)—The state of Florida is the third-largest hub for sex trafficking in the United States, but there is a severe lack of aid for young women once they have been rescued.
The Florida Baptist Children’s Homes’ newest initiative, The Porch Light, is set to open its first safe home for victims of sex trafficking later this summer. This first home is only the beginning of FBCH’s plan to ignite hope by rescuing, restoring and setting young women free from emotional and physical bondage.
The home opening later this summer will serve as a model for future safe homes, whose locations will remain undisclosed for the safety of their residents. Each home will be staffed by a director, licensed mental health counselor and female caregivers.
Michele Newsome is the newly-hired director of The Porch Light. She is responsible for the oversight of the victims, staff and volunteers of the program’s safe homes, as well as education and prevention efforts.
Newsome served as a police officer and detective for 24 years. Her role as a detective included investigating crimes against children such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Newsome has her Master of Arts degree in mental health counseling, and she has a history of working with victims of sexual abuse, offenders and those with sexual addictions.
Jerry Haag, president of FBCH, described the dire need for holistic, Christ-centered care and safe havens for girls who have been trafficked.
“This first phase is where girls can come and be home schooled, in conjunction with the county, with fantastic Christian coaches and mentors,” he said. “These are girls coming from dire trauma, most of them with post-traumatic stress disorder. At The Porch Light, they will learn about the healing love of Jesus Christ.”
Newsome’s intimate knowledge of the criminal justice system, and specifically her work with abused children and the mentally ill, perfectly equip her to head The Porch Light. Under Newsome’s leadership, in tandem with the safe-home staff and licensed counselors, The Porch Light will serve as a beacon of safety for women throughout the state.
Even the brightest lights ultimately fade into ash and embers without fuel. Likewise, The Porch Light relies on charitable giving and volunteer support to shine throughout Florida. Although the first safe home is nearing the end of the renovation process, there are numerous needs that have not been met.
FBCH is calling on churches and communities throughout the state for help. The Porch Light needs females who are willing to serve as comforters, counselors and companions for the girls rescued.
|DONATIONS Teams from Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon (left) and Lake Wales Baptist Church drop off donated items for The Porch Light safe home. FBCH photos|
It also needs continued funding for the operation of the home, along with household items. FBCH’s website has details about The Porch Light’s material needs and its Target registry. Individuals and churches can host “showers” for The Porch Light to collect donations. Many churches all over the state are supporting The Porch Light efforts, including Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon and Lake Wales First Baptist Church. Because of these efforts, the first safe house is turning into a real home.
The generosity of others will directly impact the lives of young women like “Sparkle.” A 14-year-old from Miami, Sparkle met a man on the Internet, one of the prime hunting grounds for sex traffickers, who tricked her into trusting him through false empathy and feigned love.
After going to a party to meet a boy, she was kidnapped and forcibly trafficked. Sparkle was drugged, her eyelids were tattooed as a rancher would brand cattle, and she was advertised on the Internet like property.
Sparkle was rescued, but without the support of local communities and churches, thousands of girls like her will remain imprisoned.
FBCH is focused on preventing traffickers from ever reaching young women like Sparkle. Help their prevention efforts by standing with them as lights for Christ against the darkness of trafficking enveloping the state and nation.
Time, money and donations are needed so that The Porch Light’s first home will be able to open on time. There are young women in need right now who need a place to stay.
With God all things are possible, and with the support of His people, The Porch Light can light the way for trafficked young women to experience the redeeming love of Christ.
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