Grantee Spotlight: The Covering House
Young girls, aged 12-14, are in grave danger of becoming trafficked. The FBI estimates that 300,000 children, between the ages of 7 and 18 (average age of 15), are at risk of commercial domestic sex trafficking in the United States each year. Runaways, throwaways, youth with a background of abuse or neglect, and foster care youth living in group homes are all vulnerable to human trafficking. The Department of Justice identified St. Louis, Missouri, as one of the top 20 cities in the United States for trafficking. Sexually exploited and trafficked from a young age, these young girls are often bewildered, hurt, angry, defensive, and most of all, scared. They have no one to trust in, nowhere to turn to, and seemingly nothing to believe in…this is where The Covering House steps in.
The Covering House is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to provide refuge and restoration, using the least restrictive environment, for sexually exploited and trafficked children and teens, providing safety, dignity, and freedom, utilizing top level staffing and oversight. This mission can be seen through the services provided to these young women, which includes: individual counseling, group therapy, supportive adults program, reducing the risk program, and community training; long-term therapeutic home, where long-term care is offered to these young women in a family-oriented environment, bringing normalcy and stability to their lives; and specialized therapies, including culinary, equine, art, and horticulture.
The Covering House has helped educate over six hundred young people about sexual exploitation, helping them to understand the definition of exploitation, to identify safe people, to navigate the Internet safely, and to define sexual consent. Tools are also provided to caregivers and youth to reduce the risk of youth becoming victims and to expand understanding about healthy relationships and sexual health. In addition to their prevention programs, The Covering House provides therapeutic long-term housing, lasting about 12-14 months, for girls the ages of 13-17 that have experienced sexual trafficking or exploitation. When they first come to the Covering House, most of these girls are closed off, dark, unhappy, and broken. The staff works with each young girl to create personalized therapeutic and educational goals. The Covering House provides year-round schooling so these young girls can regain lost credit hours. The staff also recognizes the need for young girls to have some fun, so every Friday they have an outing day where they take the girls off campus for a trip to the science center or library, or a trip to the Butterfly House or the Zoo.
As a grandmother of one of the young girls said, “This isn’t the same child that I knew 6 months ago. When we dropped her off, she didn’t make eye contact with anyone nor would she talk to anyone. Today she is standing before a group of people talking about her struggles and achievements. I didn’t even recognize her.” For those young girls who complete their stay in long-term therapeutic housing, she will return to her family or caregivers if they are healthy and are not a part of the problem. Once the girls do leave, the community-based services become the step-down care for those who graduate from the program. The Covering House will continue to provide care and will walk with them as long as they need. The Covering House works to ensure that victims of human trafficking or exploitation are cared for, mentally and physically, and its staff works tirelessly to promote safety, dignity, and freedom. For more information about The Covering House, please visit their website: thecoveringhouse.org