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Shelter to house at-risk human trafficking youth

Posted at 9:31 PM, Jan 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 02:31:58-05

A shelter, specifically for young girls who are at risk for being trafficked in the sex slave industry, is under construction in Bakersfield.

"We do all that we can to protect and prevent girls from being taken, from being lured away from situations that are very difficult to recover from," said Jennifer Jensen, Executive Director of Global Family Care Network.

Jensen started Global Family more than 20 years ago. Her effort first began in Nepal and India, rescuing girls who were at risk of being sold into a life of sex slavery.

23ABC traveled with Global Family to India in 2010 to see first hand the impact the non-profit was having.

But Jensen says it's no longer just a global issue, "With all the trafficking that is lured to the state of California, it's surprising that Kern County doesn't have a shelter for minor youth yet."

The non-profit organization has been working on the safe house for more than a year. When it opens, it will temporarily house up to six girls - ages 12 to 18 - who are runaways, homeless or in-and-out of different systems.

"When they're identified, they're either taken to juvenile hall for protective custody or put in Jamison's Center. So this would be the first holistic and therapeutic victim's center," said Bhavna Sharma, Lead Coordinator for Global Family.

23ABC took an inside look at the soon-to-be shelter.

The $250,000 safe house will be complete with bedrooms, bathrooms, learning centers, a full industrial kitchen, counseling centers and even a panic room.

"If there's ever a threat on-site, girls can come here, lock themselves up," explained Sharma.

Sharma said last year alone, there were 143 cases of trafficked victims in the county. With the opening of the shelter, they hope to curb that number and prevent future cases.

"We are hoping to alleviate some of those gaps in services and reach out to some girls who are in particularly high risk situations to see if we can move them toward stability with help and support," said Sharma.

If you would like to volunteer for Global Family click here. To donate to the organization, click here.

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