KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The YWCA, known for helping women rebound from sexual assault and domestic violence situations, announced Wednesday they’ll be expanding their human trafficking services. They’re opening a new shelter specifically for victims of labor and sex trafficking and it’ll be the first of its kind in the state.
“One of the perennial issue that we have is assisting survivors and finding safe and affordable housing,” said Jessica Glynn, director of law and policy at the YWCA. “This shelter will provide accommodations for up to 17 people.”
Glynn said the shelter will be open to everyone including gender-non-conforming people and men. Most people don’t often think of men as victims of labor and sex trafficking, she said. However it's prevalent globally including in West Michigan.
“The total trafficked number people around the world are 26.4 million,” said Glynn during an interview at the YWCA. “Forty percent of those are men.”
Young teenage boys who run away from home often engage in sex for survival, she said. Other men, especially immigrants, are sometimes forced into labor trafficking.
“This shelter will be recognizing that we need a place for men, women and children,” said Glynn. “We’ve had many clients in labor trafficking situations particularly men who are not able to leave because they do not have access to safe housing.”
The new shelter is currently undergoing revocations and will be available to clients when it opens in January 2018. However its address will be kept secret to keep their residents safe.
“The emergency housing, especially for those who are fleeing a very dangerous set of circumstances, it is critical that the location be confidential and that they can live without fear of retaliation by their perpetrator or be easily found,” said Glynn. "So the address will not be public.”
Glynn stressed that if anyone is in need of immediate housing, not to hesitate to call. Shelters are available. As for the public, when people ask how they can help, she said she encourages them to fight politically.
“Advocate for better labor conditions across the board for people,” she said. “Raising the minimum wage would go a long way.”