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During the next several weeks, up to 15 families will move into a repurposed apartment complex in north Phoenix. From the outside, it looks like any other two-story complex scattered throughout the Valley.
But what's happening there is unlike anything else in the United States. Starfish Place is a first-of-its-kind permanent housing program deed for victims of sex trafficking and their families. The unit complex has a mix of two- and three-bedroom apartments to serve people who need support programs, while also accommodating their families.
Starfish Place also has a 6,square-foot building where two full-time case managers will provide services such as health care, substance-abuse programs and job training. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said Starfish Place will make sure sure victims who leave the vicious cycle of sex trafficking "have a warm, supportive, trauma-informed, safe place to go to.
Stanton formed a city task force to address prostitution and human trafficking in leading up to the Super Bowl, which was expected to draw prostitution to the Valley. The task force decided to continue its mission after the Super Bowl when it became apparent sex trafficking didn't end or begin when the big game came to town, Stanton said. Starfish Place is the group's latest accomplishment. Department of Housing and Urban Development decided to stop funding transitional housing.
That meant the foundation no longer had the money to operate a housing development it opened in and wanted the city to take over the now-vacant building. Around the same time, City Council members directed Stotler's department to explore opportunities to provide supportive housing for sex-trafficking victims. The City Council unanimously approved plans to take over the apartment complex and retool it into permanent housing with subsidized rent for sex-trafficking victims and their families.
Phoenix, partially through donations, provided basic furnishings in all of the apartments.
Stotler's team is still accepting donations to provide additional furniture in the community and training rooms, she said. Residents can stay at Starfish Place as long as their income qualifies for a Section 8 housing voucher, though the city hopes the services it provides will allow people to get jobs that push them out of the low-income status, Stotler said. Recipients of the federally funded program pay a portion of their income toward rent, with the remaining balance covered by the voucher.
Phoenix will allocate 15 of its vouchers for survivors of human trafficking, giving them priority in an otherwise years-long process. Stotler said the case managers will provide everything from counseling to basic life lessons.
She said many victims were forced into prostitution at such young ages that they never learned how to keep house, manage a budget or pay bills. Arizona State University professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz helped de the program and will evaluate and document the services, Stotler said.
Stotler said Roe-Sepowitz encouraged the city to tailor the housing program around services that create a compassionate setting. He said he's proud Phoenix is at the forefront of providing services for victims, while allowing them to live in a comfortable setting with their families.
Waring said too many people still view prostitution through the "glamorous" lens created by Hollywood. He said he hopes his task force's continued work on the issue changes that. Stuff that is incomprehensible to me. Glamorous it is not. Victimless it is not," Waring said. Can Phoenix beat the big drug makers in court?
Phoenix fires 3 employees after Burton Barr library flooding disaster. Facebook Twitter. Victims of human- and sex-trafficking to get first-of-its-kind housing and help in Phoenix. Jessica Boehm The Republic azcentral.
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