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CO organization plans to open second safe house for human trafficking survivors

DENVER — A Colorado organization is planning to open its second safe house for human trafficking survivors.

After survivors escape, it can be difficult for them to find a place to live and continue their recovery. According to the Office of Justice, there are few emergency shelters or transitional housing programs that are prepared to serve victims of human trafficking.

In January 2023, Covered Colorado opened a safe house in a secret location to protect the safety of local survivors.

“We’ve put through about 11 survivors, and a few of those we have moved out onto their next step,” said Johanna Spille, founder of Covered Colorado. “Of course, we’ve had a few leave.”

Spille said survivors can benefit from another layer of support. She aims to open a second safe house, where survivors can learn to be self-sufficient.

“A place where people can go once they’ve gotten stabilized, now they can go and they can work toward that self-sufficiency,” saod Spille.

Covered Colorado offers more than a safe house. It also offers counseling, a 10-week core life skills curriculum and community.

Spille said the organization has experienced a recent increase in calls for support.

“In one given year, we’ll do about 40 crisis calls,” said Spille. “Just between August and December, we did 141. So it more than tripled in crisis calls.”

Colorado organization plans to open second safe house for human trafficking survivors

Maria Trujillo of the Colorado Human Trafficking Council said people are learning more about how to identify human trafficking.

The council’s 2023 Annual Report found that between 2020 and 2022, there was an uptick in the number of human trafficking-related charges that were filed. The state saw 42 filings in 2022 compared to 28 in 2021 and 34 in 2020.

“A lot of these cases are being convicted on human trafficking, or they’re being convicted on other related crimes,” said Trujillo. “The statutes are much stronger… prosecutors and law enforcement are learning more about this crime.”

The report also found sex trafficking was oftentimes being perpetrated by the survivor’s family member.

“You often have a very strong trusting relationship and bond with your trafficker, and that’s hard to separate and understand that maybe this is a crime that’s happening to you and that you should be reporting it,” said Trujillo.

Amanda, the house manager at Covered Colorado’s safe house, said there’s hope for survivors.

“It’s really easy for me to be, like, a cheerleader to them when I see them,” she said. “It is so rewarding to just see them, you know, grow and prosper and develop new skills.”

If you or someone you know needs help, you are not alone. You can call Colorado’s Human Trafficking Hotline at 866-455-5075 or text 720-999-9724. Covered Colorado is also ready to help at 720-674-3633

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