A new shelter for victims of human trafficking will open in Kalamazoo early next year. The Kalamazoo YWCA says state and local funding will support the shelter, which is the first of its kind in Michigan.
Jessica Glynn is the YWCA's director of law and policy. She says trafficking hurts those forced into sex work but there are other victims too.
"It can include a wide range of experiences and happens most often in low-wage industries. We see (this) quite frequently in southwest Michigan: construction, restaurants, and, especially in west Michigan, with our very large agricultural sector."
Glynn says the new shelter will address a big problem that keeps people in abusive situations: finding a place to stay after getting away from a bad situation.
"The ability to get housing when one is a migrant worker and lacks appropriate documentation, or a Social Security card, or because the stock of affordable housing is just so meager."
The Kalamazoo YWCA has received funding from Michigan's Office for Victims of Crime to help trafficking victims since 2016. Glynn says that money will help cover costs beyond those of opening the new shelter. The program also offers legal help, therapy, and an initiative working with the community and vulnerable groups to prevent human trafficking. Glynn says the new shelter builds on those efforts.
"We have a shelter that serves domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking survivors. We are the only shelter in Kalamazoo County, so we do accommodate people. This new shelter will be specifically for human trafficking survivors."
Glynn says the new shelter for men, women, and children will open in January. It will have 17 beds.
The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2016 that the number of human trafficking cases statewide had more than doubled. But Glynn says those statistics from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center only reflect the number of people who called for help, not the number actually caught up in trafficking. According to the article, there were 152 reported cases of human trafficking in Michigan in 2015. All but 30 involved sex trafficking.
Glynn says anyone who has been trafficked and is in immediate danger should call 911. But those not facing immediate threats can call the Kalamazoo YWCA Crisis Line at (269) 385-3587. It also accepts reports from people who believe that others are victims of human trafficking.