MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For victims of sex trafficking in Minnesota, there are currently only two beds for shelter in the entire state. Now, a new shelter that just broke ground in St. Paul plans to change that.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar was one of the lawmakers to break ground Tuesday on the new Safe and Sound Center For Girls that will open in 2014.
“Eventually they’ll transition into another life, but they can’t turn 180 degrees if they have no place to sleep,” Klobuchar said.
The shelter, a 180 Degrees project, will have 12 beds, providing counseling services and temporary housing for sexually exploited women.
“What will make them welcome, what will help them heal, what do they need to be able to do to overcome and deal with the stress issues be able to return to the streets,” 180 Degrees executive Director Richard Gardell said.
The shelter is the latest project in a legislative crusade calling for stricter controls on sex trafficking in Minnesota. Klobuchar helped introduce a bill at the federal level last week that would help ensure minors sold for sex are treated as victims, not defendants.
“The bill takes the Minnesota model that basically says, ‘let’s have a safe harbor for kids that are victims so they get help instead of being prosecuted,’” she said.
Lawmakers are hoping the shelter will be that safe harbor in Minnesota while more is being done to tackle the bigger issue of domestic sex trafficking.
“It’s an incredible statement about our community that we’re not going to allow these young women to be victimized,” Mayor Chris Coleman said.
The shelter will cost $3.3 million to build. 180 Degrees is still raising funds, so if you would like to donate, click here.