Now the Salvation Army has been around a while, like since the late 1800s. You can read more about their formation here. Did you know they are in the fight against human trafficking?
In Atlanta, there is a Salvation Army campus called the Kroc Center and housed inside it is Haven ATL, which is the anti-trafficking arm of their ministry led by Hillary DeJarnett. Today, you have the pleasure of getting to know Hillary.
Hillary, when did you first hear about sex trafficking?
First of all, you probably need to know my parents work with the Salvation Army, so I grew up in the ministry. When I was 16 or 17 years old I attended a Salvation Army youth camp and there was a breakout session on trafficking. I was curious so I attended it. I had seen prostitutes before, but I never saw them as victims before that summer at camp.
Did that cause you to step into the fight?
In college I met a group of girls doing a weekly prayer group for victims. They would also do outreach in the local strip clubs, going in and taking gift baskets to the dancers, talking with them and praying with them. I became a part of that group while in college.
I also led a mission trip to Amsterdam through a college ministry called the Wesley Foundation when I interned with them. We partnered with another ministry, YWAM. We blatantly saw trafficking taking place, girls in storefront windows for purchase.
Did you read any books or watch any movies to further your education about trafficking?
So how did you end up at the Salvation Army leading Haven Atlanta?
While getting my master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration, I was assigned a project to develop a program proposal. Because of my connection with the Salvation Army, I met with a staff member, Sandra, there and brainstormed ideas. I looked at the organizations out there fighting trafficking in the Atlanta area and asked myself what’s missing. I determined Atlanta needed a community based drop in center, similar to GEMS in New York City. I gave my proposal to Sandra to review before I turned it in for a grade. She said it looked fabulous and told me when I graduated she wanted me to come to Atlanta and start that program.
I felt very overwhelmed at first. All I had was my laptop… no office, no staff. I went out and began meeting the community leaders. I did an awareness campaign in conjunction with Street Grace to meet people in the community. It was then I realized women were already coming to the center for financial assistance, health care and food. They started pulling me into the meetings with the ladies and I started building relationships with them. As I helped one, word would travel in the community.
What has been your biggest obstacle or struggle?
My biggest struggle is realizing I can’t do everything for the ladies. I can’t bring them home with me, although there are times I wish I could. I’m learning it’s dignifying to give MARTA passes and give them the choice to come. It has to be their choice for it to make a difference.
I also struggle with the question, Are we doing this right?
What has been your biggest blessing in your work?
I love being part of what the Lord is doing in this arena. Seeing His provision for these ladies time and time again; seeing lives transformed is incredible.
What role do you see pornography playing in this issue?
It is the gateway for demand. People call it the victimless crime, but the women are exploited in the films.
Are there any myths about this issue you’d like to shed light on?
Yes! It is easy for people to acknowledge someone as a trafficking victim if they’re under 18 but once they turn 18 they’re seen as a prostitute, a criminal. Most of the women who are in the life after 18 were brought into the life as a minor. This bondage is cyclic. The women have never been empowered or told they could do anything else, so this is all they know. They’re a victim just like those who are under 18.
What types of services do you provide for the women?
We provide a safe place to just hang out off of the streets, educational classes, counseling, case management, transportation, health and wellness classes, Bible study, assistance getting into a residential program if they desire, and an awesome staff to love them and stand in their corner and fight with them as they fight for their freedom.
What are the needs of Haven Atlanta?
We can always benefit from financial donations. It allows us to develop and sustain programs for the women to gain education and life skills.
We also have a Haven Store the women get to shop in with their points they earn for attending classes and being on time. We try to keep the closet stocked with toiletries, clothing and gift cards.
We also need dedicated volunteers to mentor the women, to be someone who stands in their corner in this fight. To volunteer go to our website and send us an email letting us know you want to volunteer. We’ll send you the details on how to get started.
To stay in touch with the work of Haven Atlanta, you can become a follower of their blog. You can also follow them on Twitter here. To connect with Hillary or to visit Haven Atlanta and be a part of someone’s transformation, click here. To donate to the work of the Salvation Army, click here.
As always, do something. Be someone’s miracle today. Raise your voice for hope.