In October, 2013, the Washington Post reported that there are nearly 30 million slaves in the world today – more slaves than any time in human history. 60,000 of those slaves are in the U.S. The Bay Area has one of the highest concentrations of human slaves in the U.S. – many of whom are girls and women engaged in sexual slavery. Others are slaves working in restaurants and other occupations.
San Jose-based Gateway City Church and its sister organization, Gateway Community Outreach (GCO), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, wanted to do something about the problem. Mike Brock, an associate pastor at Gateway City Church and community outreach director at GCO, comments:
We have a heart for justice, and we have a heart for helping people. We believe that God is a God of justice. Beginning in 2008, we organized awareness events. In the process, we solidified our belief that supporting a long term shelter would be the best possible solution, since there were no long term shelters.
The shelter, however, did not get funded. “The reason,” Brock remarks, “was that there was not enough quantifiable data around the number of victims, how they were apprehended, and how they were adjudicated.”
GCO hired Transitions Global, a non-profit organization with a track record for conducting studies and running successful programs to help those trafficked, to conduct a study in Santa Clara County. Brock comments,
We were shocked by the results. Not only did the numbers scare us, especially the many children involved, but we also discovered that the system was broken.
On January 30, 2014, Transitions and Gateway Community Outreach presented the results of the study at Rescue is Not Enough, a conference jointly sponsored by Transitions and GCO. The conference was attended by 170 people, including government, community, and business leaders. Speakers at the event included Zoe Lofgren, U.S. Representative; Ash Kaira, San Jose Council member; and Dave Cortese, Santa Clara County Supervisor.
The Study Results
James Pound, CEO of Transitions Global, presented the results which are summarized below:
- Extent of the human trafficking problem – The full extent of the problem is not clear, but the study identified 65 women and girls currently in the system and 120 in total who have been in the system for the last few years. Pond estimates those numbers represent only one-seventh of the problem, meaning that around 800 girls and women are likely trafficked in Santa Clara County.
- Critical issues – There is a good coalition of partners in Santa Clara County, but there are also gaps in the system. The study could not find any success stories in the County. They way victims are referred is dysfunctional. Most trafficked women who are brought into foster care, for example, are back into prostitution within 48 hours. Jail does not help the victims. And there is a lack of law enforcement due to the need for additional police officers in San Jose.
- What it means – There is an opportunity for a significant change in the County. What will be important is to identify the preferred outcomes and to measure the results.
What is Next?
Pond called for the need for better collaboration, centralized data, better law enforcement, protocol development once the victims are identified and rescued, and for a comprehensive service model. Pond noted that there are few long term shelters and no “Compassionate Custody Shelters,” which Pond identified as the preferred model of service. These shelters are not punitive in nature, provide support and training, and allow for a certain degree of freedom to break the victims’ trauma. Transitions Global has seen successful outcomes with the Compassionate Custody Shelters it provides in Cambodia and other places and is happy to share its model with GCO and others.
Gateway Community Outreach expects to continue work with its partners to see the measures outlined in the study implemented, and to help make Compassionate Custody Shelters become a reality in Santa Clara County. Following the conference, Brock commented,
We are pleased that policy making people were here today. They have told us that they want to see a provisional model developed to make sure this type of aftercare works.
Brock states that GCO is close to producing such a shelter which will work to help the victims of human trafficking. In doing so, he believes that not only will the victims be helped, but God will be glorified in the process. He remarks,
I believe that if we can pioneer a successful model in Silicon Valley and God can get credit for it, we will see true revival. We hope for transformation in our culture, our City and our State. As community pastor at Gateway City Church, my idea of evangelism is showing people God’s work and how it transforms the lives of people.
Note. For another story about work in Silicon Valley to help victims of human trafficking, see: Jaida Im, Executice Director, Freedom House, Helping Survivors of Human Trafficking. Freedom House operates a home for survivors of human trafficking in San Mateo County and recently opened a home for minors in Santa Clara County, called “The Nest.”