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Home for human trafficking survivors to open next month in Columbus

Human trafficking
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Survivors of human trafficking will be able to move into a new affordable housing development in Columbus starting Dec. 1.

Harriet’s Hope will be a sober living community with 52 apartments — 47 one-bedroom apartments and five two-bedroom family units. The facility will offer a variety of support services, including substance abuse disorder treatment and mental health, workforce development and financial literacy services. The facility's exact location was not given.

At a Monday event at the state capitol celebrating the development’s completion, Celia Kendall, chief executive officer at the Columbus-based real estate nonprofit Beacon 360, said she recalls meeting a 27-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant and being trafficked out of a motel in Chicago.

“And after I left my interaction with her, the thing that bothered me the most is I could have helped, but I had no place for her,” Kendall said.

Harriet's Hope is the result of partnerships between Beacon 360, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, the city of Columbus, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, among others. Aetna CVS Health put $10.6 million toward the project, said Latasha Brown, CVS/Aetna’s anti-human trafficking administrator.

Stephen Daley with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Agency says the “transformative project” aims to answer a complex question of how to transform housing into opportunity.

“A large part of the answer is to reduce the barriers that separate our residents from the opportunity structures of the larger community,” Daley said. “Harriet’s Hope aims to do just that with wraparound services, onsite security and the promise of privacy.”

The development is named for abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who helped many people escape slavery.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost noted that there is a law enforcement aspect to stopping human trafficking but said that while traffickers need to be put in prison, more must be done for survivors who had been dependent on traffickers for food and shelter.

“For our survivors, having the opportunity to rebuild their lives, that’s something much more than merely exiting the life,” he said.

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.