‘From victim to thriver:’ Tri-Cities to house Washington’s first safe home for minor survivors of sex trafficking

Tri-Cities

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — The Tri-Cities will soon house Washington state’s first safe home for minor survivors of sex trafficking.

It’s called Esther’s Home and will host about five girls at a time for a year or two.

Mirror Ministries, a Richland faith-based nonprofit organization, will oversee the home.

“It’ll be a lovely, welcoming environment,” said Mirror Ministries Executive Director Tricia MacFarlan. “They went from victim to survivor to thriver and to really being able to get out of there and embrace life the way they should be able to.”

Franklin County commissioners voted to approve the conditional use permit this week for a location on a 20-acre rural property, a news release said.

“There’s also room on-site where they’ll be able to do their schooling online with trauma-informed tutors there to help them. They’ll be able to do their counseling and therapeutic care right there on-site at the farm and there’s even room for our horses for equine therapy,” MacFarlan said. “It’ll be everything from being able to dig in the dirt and garden to learning guitar or doing art or learning jiujitsu, whatever it is that really speaks to that girl’s heart.”

MacFarlan said restoration homes like this are needed not only in the Tri-Cities and in the state but nationwide.

“A lot of the folks we work with here at Mirror Ministries haven’t had this opportunity. We help find them, help them find their freedom, we help them through their restoration,” MacFarlan said. “They will look at you and tell you if I had had something like this where I could live there and feel safe 24/7, my life would be so different and I would’ve been able to find healing so much faster.”

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 100,000 to 293,000 children are in danger of being sexually trafficked across the nation.

MacFarlan said sex trafficking is a crime that is often not actively seen or observed.

“It’s happening right under our noses. It looks normal to a lot of us until we know what to look for so learn what to look for,” MacFarlan said.

MacFarlan added that the biggest hurdles are funding and staffing. Currently, they have over 60% of the needed funds but their goal is to open their doors when they have three years of operating expenses in the bank.

“We don’t want to be one of those failed programs to fail these kids again,” MacFarlan said. “They’ve been through so many failures and so many people promising them the moon and failing them again and again. We want to make sure our doors stay open.”

Officials said they are planning for the house to open by the end of the year if the pandemic doesn’t slow things down further.

In the future, they are hoping to expand the number of homes on the property to help more girls in the future.

“What an empowering thought, that not only can you find your freedom, you can find healing and hope and you can empower others,” MacFarlan said.

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