CAMILLUS HOUSE OPENS RESIDENTIAL UNIT TO PROVIDE SAFETY AND RECOVERY FOR VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Ryder System, Inc. Provides $250,000 Grant to Renovate Residential Area of this New Program
A new program to help victims of human trafficking was officially opened today at Camillus House. Named Project Phoenix, the 16-bed, residential treatment & recovery program is one of the few places available for adult female victims in Florida. Prior to its opening, just 30 beds were available statewide, despite the fact that Florida has the third largest number of human trafficking cases in the nation.
The push for this new program came from Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who made strengthening laws against human traffickers her top legislative priority two years ago.
"We made the laws stronger, we did law enforcement training, community awareness," Fernandez Rundle said. “The last piece that was missing was the shelter piece. We had to have a place for the young women to go.”
Fernandez Rundle approached Camillus House, whose board of directors agreed to work together and, within a few months, the program had secured $500,000 from the Florida Department of Children & Families to fund the first year’s operational costs.
"A lot of shelters don't want to cross-populate," Fernandez Rundle explains. "They focus on domestic violence, and that's it. In April of last year, the Camillus House board let me speak, and I pleaded with them to let me establish a shelter there."
Women who have been trafficked have been coerced or forced into using and abusing drugs, physically and sexually abused, and led to believe that their lives have little value. Project Phoenix’s holistic approach, which begins with a safe place to live, focuses on trauma recovery therapy, substance abuse treatment, social and life skills training and vocational development.
"These girls had their childhoods stolen from them," explained Shed Boren, CEO of Camillus House & Health. "They are between 18 and 24. They are very young. The mission is to care for the most vulnerable among us. Clearly, these women are the most vulnerable among us."
Project Phoenix also received a generous $250,000 capital grant from Ryder System, Inc., the Official Corporate Sponsor, to retrofit the residential area of the program. Ryder has been at the forefront of this issue for some time, as the company’s drivers travel to many of the same places where traffickers take their victims to work such as truck stops, gas stations, restaurants and rest areas.
“Ryder employs more than 6,000 drivers and 5,000 technicians who are the eyes and ears of our nation's highways,” said Karen Jones, Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer for Ryder System, Inc. “We’ve trained over 20,000 Ryder employees, throughout the U.S., on how to spot and report suspected trafficking activity through a Truckers Against Trafficking toll-free hotline. Programs like Project Phoenix align with our core values of safety and community collaboration, and we’re proud to be part of this important initiative.”