Kristi House opened a shelter on April 1, 2013 in Miami for underage girls escaping prostitution and pornography. A home was purchased and its renovation provided by private funders. The home was the first to open in Miami under Florida’s Safe Harbor Act, ground-breaking legislation authored and promoted by Kristi House and successfully passed in the 2012 legislative session that forever changes the way child victims of sex trafficking are viewed and treated in our state.
Leading the Collaboration
Kristi House has led the Miami community response to commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) since 2007 with a program encompassing community collaboration, prevention and treatment. Along with bringing law enforcement, child welfare and the service provider community together around this issue, Project GOLD provides health and legal services linkages, case management, and mental health services to girls, ages 11 to 17. These children caught up in pornography and prostitution experience significant physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual repercussions from the trauma of sexual exploitation.
Project GOLD also focuses on raising awareness about the reality of children being bought and sold in the commercial sex industry and building community capacity to treat and heal victims. Kristi House specialists have trained more than 5,000 professionals throughout the country on CSEC. Kristi House advocated for the Florida Safe Harbor Act because it recognizes children as victims of child sexual abuse rather than as perpetrators of a crime.
Kristi House has provided services to nearly 300 girls ages 11 to 18 since referrals began in 2008. Services are provided on an outpatient basis, as well as through the emergency shelter for those without a safe home. Kristi House’s Project GOLD is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project and considered a national model for community collaboration around the issue of child sex trafficking.
A Major Milestone
The SHELTER for commercially sexually exploited girls was the remaining critical component to helping girls escape “The Life,” get off the dangerous streets and restore their lives. The Kristi House safe house will serve as an emergency shelter, providing safe harbor and services from Project GOLD specialists. Kristi House is working closely with the Florida Department of Children and Families and Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe on the shelter’s operations.
The home is a spacious, three-bedroom house with a garage apartment situated on a large, corner lot of over 15,000 square feet. The property is completely surrounded by a hedge and fence and has several mature shade trees creating a tranquil setting. The house came in very good condition so major structural repairs were not needed. In fact, the wood floors and woodwork throughout the house, as well as original tile work, have been lovingly restored.
Renovation and expansion of the shelter began with phase I. The first phase encompassed ADA compliance adjustments, addition of walls to create offices, a new kitchen, the addition of a new bathroom and general repairs. The first phase was fast-tracked in the final months of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 thanks to our amazing construction firm, Link Construction.
Kristi House extends its sincerest gratitude to its architects, Trelles Cabarrocas Architects, and builders, Link Construction Group, for their dedication of pro bono time and immense talents to our project.
How You Can Get Involved
Many donors like to give tangible goods that will go directly to the benefit of the girls in our care. A Wish List has been created on Amazon.com for the items needed to furnish and stock the shelter. We welcome you to shop online for those provisions needed the most. On Amazon.com, choose to “Wish List” on the top menu and then search for “Kristi House Shelter.”
Monetary donations are being accepted to go toward operating and staffing costs for the shelter. It takes specially trained, sensitive professionals to effectively help girls who have experienced sexual exploitation.
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