Alamo Youth Center would help sex trafficking victims recover
SAN ANTONIO -- The fight to end human trafficking.
Local experts are now telling News 4 San Antonio that many of the children sold into sex slavery are not able to find a way out because they simply have nowhere to go.
Turns out there's little police can legally do, but there's an organization working to help them.
Alamo Youth Service and the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking (made up of a number of organizations including the Rape Crisis Center, Bexar County District Attorney’s office, ChildSafe, Juvenile District Court, and many others) are working to address the growing problem.
The president of Alamo Youth Service, Chuck Paul, spent 12 years a Child Protective Services Special Investigator.
Last year, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children identified more than 2,000 runaways as sex trafficking victims.
That number is up from 1 in 6 in runaways in 2014 to now 1 in 5.
“74% of those victims where in foster care, but the other 26% come from regular homes so anyone is at risk,” said Paul. “Any child is at risk for sex trafficking.”
Bexar County Juvenile Probation Attorney Erin Barry says the problem is there's no place for victims to go.
“There's a population of children in Bexar County who are falling through the cracks and there's no safety net for them,” she said.
Depending on the offense, police officers can't hold juvenile victims for longer than 24 hours, and they can't take them to shelters.
“They tend to become a danger by being in that population because often times their perpetrator will follow them there, and they're violent, and it's a risk to the other children who are there,” Barry said. “We see the same runaways come back and every time some come back they look a little worse for the wear. You can see it destroys them it breaks them down.”
That’s why Alamo Youth Service wants to build a facility where police could take victims so they don’t fall back into their perpetrator’s grip.
The facility would be called the Alamo Youth Center and would provide medical care and therapy to victims, even school.
“A place they can go where they can get the help they need to begin the healing process,” said Paul.
Paul says he hopes to find a facility the organization can lease, or perhaps one that might be donated to them, within the next 6 months.
Long term, he hopes to raise $30 million to build a facility that could house more than 60 children.