A trafficking shelter for boys opens in North Carolina
When Americans think about human trafficking, most don't picture a boy as the victim. But several studies, identified in USA Today earlier this year, show that boys account for a third or more of the children sexually exploited in the US.
It's why Anna and Chris Smith have founded the ministry Restore One which has opened a faith-based shelter designed specifically for boys aged 12-18 who have been victims of sex trafficking.
"We felt like the Lord really told us to do this," Anna explained to CBN News this week. Initially, she and her husband intended to open a home for girls but changed their minds when several anti-trafficking advocates told them they had no long-term shelter options for law enforcement looking for referral sources for boys.
"I remember thinking, 'Wow -- I wonder if this is something God is calling us to,' " Smith said.
A few months later she and her husband decided to take the plunge and create a home for boys.
They're now offering The Anchor House, a licensed, North Carolina-based shelter for boys who need a place to stay to receive holistic care. The non-profit offers the shelter at no charge. "Kids will stay with us as long as they need," she said. That could range from one to two years.
The boys will live in cottages supervised by male and female house parents. "They need to see strong and kind men and also safe and strong women," Smith said.
Most boys, she said, are trafficked by men and sold to men. "Boys are absolutely pimped out, but many boys don't identify their pimp as a pimp but more as a trusted friend," she said.
Shared Hope International, a leader in the international anti-trafficking movement, says several boys shelters have started to open. The Anchor House is one of two in the US it knows about. The other opened last year in Florida. The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking operates that shelter.
Shared Hope spokeswoman Susanna Bean says anti-trafficking advocates have mistakenly ignored the needs of male victims and that The Anchor House opening is a good sign. "This shelter is opening at a time when we're recognizing as a movement that we have overlooked the trafficking of boys for far too long," she said.
The Anchor House provides counseling therapy for its residents as well as educational and medical services. Plenty of exercise options, such as biking, soccer, and yoga are also available.
The ministry wants to provide holistic care for boys who have suffered multiple traumas. "For a lot of men and boys, for them to either speak out or name that they're a survivor is so shameful," Smith said. "They may be concerned that they'll be called gay or that they're not a true guy anymore."
Correction: CBN News mistakenly reported last week that The Anchor House was the only boys shelter operating in the U.S. This updated story notes that at least one other exists.