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Refuge for Women’s plans to open a residential aftercare home have been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic, but hopes are it can open by the end of the year.

The Brazoria County United Front Coalition is a gathering of community partners organized by Unbound Houston. Members of the organization met Wednesday via a web conference to discuss the new Refuge for Women safe house in Brazoria County, as well as plans for Unbound Houston to help local sex trafficking victims.

Refuge for Women is the nation’s largest aftercare provider for victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking, offering the balanced, nuanced support that program participants need, Refuge for Women Texas Gulf Coast Development Director Vicki Kirby said.

“Every woman who comes to us is in a crisis, but the crises are always different,” Kirby said.

They have complex PTSD as if having returned from war, she said, but it was their life.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that the problem of sex trafficking is so huge, complex or dark, that no single person and all organization can fight it on all fronts,” Refuge for Women Texas Gulf Coast Board Chairman Curtis Swisher said.

Refuge for Women is a Christian faith-based organization, Swisher said, but anyone can feel free to seek help, regardless of their faith.

“We’re just here to help out, the best that we can,” he said. “We’ll be there to help, from complete care, to guided independence.”

The Gulf Coast chapter had managed to raise enough money to purchase a large home for its base in Brazoria County, Swisher said.

“Feb. 7 of this year, we just bought the title of the house,” Swisher said. “We started out with $600 and then over eight months of fundraising, we received $400,000, allowing us to purchase the house debt-free.”

Refuge for Women plans to open the house in several months, as soon as it is safe to accept new residents into the program.

“Our goal is to open a house this year,” Kirby said. “We believe that the COVID-19 virus has put us behind at least three months.”

The organization hopes to raise enough money to have the house fully ready once the pandemic has cleared.

“We need about $150,000 in capital, we need a flood control system and we need to hire staff,” Swisher said.

They have a few wonderful people in mind, he said.

Meanwhile, as help needs to remain remote in the wake of the pandemic, Unbound Houston is offering an array of resources to help those still living in fear for their lives.

The organization works to prevent, identify and assist victims of human trafficking, Unbound Houston Executive Director Kerri Taylor said. They also need all of the help that they can get, she said.

“Unbound Houston really needs gift cards, specifically to Walmart, H-E-B and related essential stores,” Taylor said.

The organization gives supplies to those in need, she said, but now they are doing all of their advocacy remotely.

“We’re calling it ‘remote advocacy’ and we have been doing e-gift cards,” Taylor said.

The board’s next meeting will be Aug. 26, either virtually or at Alvin Community College, as recommended by government leaders, Taylor said.

“This is such a complicated, huge battle,” Taylor said. “And I’m so glad to have every one of you here listening.”

To get involved or provide a donation toward Unbound, contact Nancy Stewart at nancy.stewart@unboundnow.org or houston@unboundnow.org.

To get involved or provide a donation toward Refuge for Women Texas Gulf Coast, contact Kirby at vicki.kirby@refugeforwomen.org.

Alexa Crenshaw is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0155. ?

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