They are victimized and abused, young girls forced into a life on the fringes, trafficked into the sex trade.
It’s a world that exists in tandem with ours but while those victims and their abusers' number in the dozens there is not a single safe house in Nevada for those rescued girls to live.
“Today, if a young person gets picked up there is not an alternative to detention or Child Haven. Both are hardworking but don’t have the people but do not have specialized services.” Christina Vela with St Jude’s Ranch for Children wants to change that.
Vegas Lost saw, for the first time, the plan to house young victims. These are renderings of a secure campus St Jude’s Ranch has designed with room to house up to sixty children and teens.
There’s a school, space for therapy and quiet reflection, and an intake building open twenty-four hours a day.
“We want to be that diversion,” Vela tells us. “When law enforcement gets into contact with the victim they can come here and divert them. They need to go immediately to a place where they can be treated and taken care of.”
What you don’t see security that uses cameras, sensors, and armed guards. There is a reason there has never been secure housing for victims of sex trafficking; it’s difficult and dangerous. Pimps and abusers threaten safety and female victims often go back to their abuser.
Vela knows those risks they say they’re prepared to take them on. “We have a responsibility to share with the community that it’s not just a handful, there are a lot of children being affected in Southern Nevada.”
It takes money; the initial cost here is $15,000,000. They hope to use a combination of state and federal dollars but they are looking for community partners. If they can get the money they hope to start construction in August.