Sanctum House provides safe space for human trafficking victims

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most people to stay home as much as possible but it's also created a greater opportunity for human trafficking to go undetected. 

That's where Sanctum House of Metro Detroit steps in. While COVID-19 caused shutdowns and lockdowns, it also forced another pandemic even further underground, Edee Franklin, founder of Sanctum House, said.

“Human trafficking got lost in COVID," Franklin said. “It never stops. 24 hours a day women are being trafficked.” 

Sanctum House is a safe home that provides counseling, education, and much more for female survivors of human trafficking. Franklin says detection has become harder and just last year, victims contacted the National Human Trafficking Hotline nearly a thousand times.

How victims are still in the situation is frustrating for Franklin.

"Our women came to us through our partners, different places in the community, first responders, and hospitals - people who have their eye out (for victims). But if they’re caged in the house during COVID, sometimes they’re not letting them out unless they're harmed or they're beat up and they want them to look prettier for their photo op," Franklin said.

Human trafficking survivor and Sanctum House resident Claire says she was trafficked when she was 40. She’d been living near a university and a man came to her door with quite a sob story.

“I invited him in to offer him a glass of water, calm him down. He was in tears. It was at that point things changed," Claire said.

Over the course of several days, Claire was held captive and abused until she finally got a chance to escape.

Amid the global pandemic, human trafficking has gotten worse as it's forced deeper underground.

“Human traffickers are very, very smart. They know exactly what they’re doing. It almost felt like there was some handbook of the way to break a person down," Claire said.

Sanctum House opened nearly three years ago and has helped more than 55 women, including Claire, get off the streets by providing trauma and survivor therapy, education opportunities, legal assistance and jobs.

But if they want to expand and help more people, they need help.

"Right now we have 12 residents in our house and it’s full. And our second house will be able to take 16 women," Franklin said.

Claire, who later learned she’d been approached several times before her nightmare began says to please be alert and aware and always trust your gut. She also has a message for those running out of hope.

"You mean something. You are important and there is a way through to the other side of fear. I promise you have the courage to find it."