New Center provides safe space for human trafficking survivors


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    A new facility opening up on the North Side will help in the fight against human trafficking. The facility, called La Puerta - which translates as 'The Door' - will help some of the state's estimated 79,000 victims of sex trafficking.

    In 2018 the Roy Maas Youth Alternative's Centro Seguro helped more than 250 people, and so far this year, more than 100 children have received services there.

    Right now the new La Puerta facility hopes to stop the cycle.

    Allison Franklin still remembers some of the lowest times of her life, as a victim of human trafficking in the streets of Houston.

    "I've been kidnapped, I've been shot at I've been chained to a stove, I've been stabbed, these are abuses and I've gone through a lot but the kids that I work with have gone through way more than I have and they're only 14 years old," Franklin said.

    Today, Franklin works with young children who have become victims themselves.

    "Running from home, they are actually being dumped into our Juvenile Justice System and being criminalized for their own victimization," Franklin said.

    Dr. Julie Strentzsch, Chief Program Director for the Roy Maas Youth Alternative said the new La Puerta building may seem familiar.

    "It was our old Bridge emergency center.” Strentzsch said.

    With a new look and a new goal.

    "We've got to create a place where they can naturally get used to structure and rules and we need a little bit of time to help them do that." Strentzsch said.

    And encouraging longer stays.

    "I anticipate most of our kids will use that full 90 days unlike our traditional shelter where the average length of stay is 7-10 days or 2 weeks." Strentzsch said.

    To change the trajectory of children's lives.

    "If I would’ve had someplace to go to get away from these predators maybe I would have never been sex trafficked." Franklin said.

    La Puerta will host 16 children, if it is full, they can be transferred to the Bridge Emergency Center or Centro Seguro until room is made here.

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