Salvation Army's newest beacon of hope? Catherine's Cottage

Safe haven for human trafficking survivors
Posted at 9:58 PM, Feb 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-14 00:09:38-05
The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. 
For those who have survived human trafficking, Catherine's Cottage hopes to be a beacon of light. It's a place where survivors can re-enter society and take their lives back.
In a quiet, tree lined neighborhood, the location of which cannot be disclosed, a three-story home will soon serve as a temporary home for trafficking survivors.
Thanks to The Salvation Army, a team of five designers, contractors, businesses, organizations and the Catherine's Cottage is closer to becoming a reality.
Survivors will be offered counseling, support groups, spiritual discovery and life skills classes thanks in part to the dedication of Shamere McKenzie, a survivor herself and the Salvation Army's anti-trafficking program director.
She hopes her story and the new facility will help change lives.
"There were no red flags for me that this was actually a trafficker and in some of the trafficking cases that we see, you know traffickers build that relationship and try to find out you know, what's your vulnerability," Mckenzie said. "Catherine's Cottage is that first step what were doing right here is showing survivors that there is hope, that there is help that they can move forward, they're not what their trafficker says they are."
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Too often, the plight of trafficking is swept under the rug because its victims feel overwhelming fear and shame. 
"This is an underground issue and survivors, because of the shame and the guilt you know that affiliated with it, some survivors don't come forward," McKenzie said.
She said the need continues to grow to help survivors re-assimilate. 
"When we acquired this home, and we asked what is the need in terms of services for survivors of human trafficking in Maryland the task force informed us that emergency services for adults was definitely a need," said McKenzie.
Housing for those in crisis is something the Salvation Army has been doing since the 1800's
"Sometimes you need these specialized services, you want to understand the trauma that they went through so there takes a lot of counseling to unpack that trauma. The first phase is that emergency phase, the second phase is designed for those survivors who we haven't placed in 30 days 30," explained McKenzie.
Many designers and companies donated their time and services to the project including Trish Albano, an interior designer in the Baltimore area. 
"These women are coming from abusive situations where they've been controlled and abused and i wanted to give them a sense of safety. We were really focused on bringing in a lot of bright colors, but yet soothing at the same time  kind of almost like a rebirth," Albano said.
McKenzie said the Salvation Army plans to do more to help the victims of human trafficking in the future, but is confident Catherine's Cottage will bring hope to those who've lost it. 
"They can understand that they're destined for greatness and they're not what happened to them and they can be anything that they want to be," she said.
For more information about Catherine's Cottage or the Salvation Army, click here.

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