SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – November is National Runaway Prevention Month. Each year, nearly 1.5 million children and adolescents leave their homes unaccompanied. According to studies at the University of Chicago, young people most often run away due to family conflicts, abuse, or neglect.
They often fall into the hands of someone professing to love them. That’s not just having an “older boyfriend” though, it’s child trafficking… and it’s not a problem only foreign children face, these are Chatham County girls.
Julie Wade is the Executive Director of Tharros Place, a new non-profit residential facility opening specifically for this vulnerable population.
“There’s a misconception these are international girls are coming in on container ships, but these are our girls living in incredibly vulnerable situations, highly susceptible to manipulation and control, and they are moving in our community. They’re not being controlled by being locked in a room, but through manipulation, threats, drug addiction, those kinds of things,” Wade said.
The average age of a victim is 14 years old. According to the World Population Review, 4 in every 100,000 people in Georgia are human trafficking victims. The entire state has a total of 55 shelter beds for these minors, with none of them being in Chatham County. Thankfully, that’s about to change.
This month Tharros Place will open its doors to these susceptible teens. It’s a 12-bed residential facility for survivors of human trafficking girls. The facility will be staffed by licensed professionals to provide trauma-informed care to girls ages 12 to 17.
“Being a teenage girl is hard these days anyway, with this added victimization and trauma we will have highly trained staff, and will have two staff members on at all times 24/7/365. We have a case manager who has a Master’s in social work, or working with our local therapy community. And in a year’s time, I really think you can get at some of those underlying issues,” Wade explained.
The facility offers everything you’d see in a typical home, plus 12 private suites, shared living space, a beauty salon, and even a classroom, with help from IKEA and SCAD’s Design for Good Initiative. Julie knows the road will be long for some victims, but she also knows they need a place to start, and for now, it’s Tharros Place.