ORLANDO, Fla. — A year after Eyewitness News first reported about a local nonprofit’s fundraising goal to open a second safe house for human trafficking survivors, the group has received a major gift to help those women.
Samaritan Village was given a home by an anonymous couple. The funds raised for a second home will go toward a third.
It’s now been more than six years since Megan, whose last name was not released, was rescued from the control of a convicted trafficker at a home in Washington Shores.
After agents shut it down, Megan moved into a human trafficking safe house known as Samaritan Village.
“Seeing how my trafficker’s been released from prison, there’s a good chance I could be back with him still. I could be dead – the life I was living, I wouldn’t know. God, so many possibilities. So I’m very grateful for Samaritan Village,” she said.
The safe house is one a few in the state providing trauma-focused treatment to survivors of human trafficking. But the program is only intended to serve women like Megan for about 18 months.
“It’s really difficult for us to find our graduates safe housing,” said Dionne Coleman, Samaritan Village executive director. “A lot of them, because of addiction and the lifestyle that was led during their trafficking experience, have felonies so that can limit them from being able to rent in very healthy and safe neighborhoods,”
Coleman knows the need is great. The organization received over 450 referrals to the program last year, which only has room to serve nine women at a time.
But the new home will change that and it didn’t cost the nonprofit a dime.
“Smack dab in the middle of COVID with everything shut down we received a call from Summit Church that there was an anonymous donor that wanted to give away a house,” Coleman said.
Channel 9 reporter Karla Ray talked to the couple but they wanted to remain anonymous.
“We had a desire for a long time to give a house away at some point in our lives. We had been praying for about 10 years to have that opportunity,” the couple said.
That gift will provide even greater opportunities to human trafficking survivors in Orlando for years to come, providing affordable housing for graduates of Samaritan Village’s main program, like Megan.
It’s a gift the home’s first tenant says will give her a better purpose to stay on the right path and hope to one day pay it forward however she can.
“Thank you doesn’t really cover it,” Megan said. “It’s such an obvious thing to say. I don’t think they understand the impacts they’re making in our life. It’s definitely more than a home. It’s a place I can continue my journey.”
Samaritan Village was in the process of fundraising for a second home. It plans to open what will be its third property in 2021. That home will provide step-down services for graduates of the main program.
After completing 18 months of the main program in the home, survivors will have the chance to continue to live in the donated home.