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Safe haven for sex trafficking victims coming to the Charlotte area

A house in the Charlotte area is being rehabbed in order to become a safe haven for young victims of sex trafficking.

The home will be called the Hope House. It’s part of On Eagles Wings Ministries founded by Emily Fitchpatrick in 2008. The first Hope House opened up in Asheville and currently houses four girls between the ages of 15-18.

The home will not only provide a safe place to live but girls but the organization provides home schooling, life skills classes and access to trauma therapy. “[We] encourage them to be teenagers and to be normal kids because they haven’t gotten to see that..The home we have we try to keep it a home like environment. It’s not an institution,” Fitchpatrick said.

On Eagles Wings Ministries is a non-profit that does not receive government help. The organization relies on community dollars and volunteers. It costs around $40,000 per year to help one girl. The home, which sat vacant for several years, was purchased through a local church. The plan is to build at least two more cottages on the six acre site.

A fundraising benefit for the Hope House was held Sunday at the Bethlehem Church in Gastonia. The crowd heard from a sex trafficking survivor who was manipulated by an older man for close to 20 years. Lisa says she was forced into a fast life working as an escort and prostitute and was beaten when she tried to leave.

“A lot of people are under the impression when they see girls online or out in the street they want to be out there and they don’t want to be out there. They just don’t know how to get out,” Lisa said.

Lisa now serves as a house mom at the Asheville Hope House.

“Nobody is too far gone.”

North Carolina consistently ranks among the top ten states for sex trafficking.  Studies show that Charlotte is targeted because so many major highways converge here. Fitchpatrick also points to a “D” grade given to the state by Shared Hope International, a group working to eradicate sex trading through prevention, restoration and legislative action. Fitchpatrick says she isn’t discouraged by the bad state stats and feels like in the coming years more homes will open their doors and new laws will be enacted. “The main goal is that more victims will be rescued and more perps will be locked up.”

“When I just focus in and think of the four girls we have at our home in Asheville and the progress they are making, it’s like one life at a time…when you can celebrate victories with these girls, that’s when you can keep going.” The ministry has been able to help 24 girls and 2000 phone calls have been made reaching out to escorts online. Fitchpatrick says the first girl the ministry helped was 15 years old. She says the girl is now graduating high school at the top of her class.

Lisa says awareness is key to eradicating this crime. “I look back at my life and it wasn’t there. It was just you were a bad girl, you made a bad choice and you lay in the bed you made.”

A home for adult women is expected to open up in Charlotte next month thanks to a group called Compassion To Act and the nation’s first home for boys will open soon in Greensboro.

Earlier this month, a bill started making its way through the North Carolina legislature that would require people to register as a sex offender if convicted of human trafficking.

To learn more about the Hope House, how to donate or volunteer click here.

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