New shelter empowering sex trafficking victims who have aged out of other shelters

By Patty Santos - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A new shelter is hoping to transform the lives of female victims of sex trafficking.  

The Providence Place is known for its work in adoption and foster care, but it was founded by a madam who turned her brothel into a shelter 124 years ago.

Judith Bell, CEO of Providence Place, said the new program is taking the organization back to its root work.

My Mariposa Home opened its doors in February of this year.

“It’s an 18-month transitional housing program for adult female survivors of complex trauma,” Bell said.

The shelter is designed for women who were victims of sexual assault, human trafficking or domestic violence who have aged out of traditional programs specifically for them. 

“What happens when they age out of those programs at 18 or 22? What’s the next phase? We don’t want them to go back to the streets or back to old habits,” Bell said.

The program is divided into three phases. The first three months are about finding healing and the next three to six months are about learning a vocation and the skills needed to get a job. The final stage is spent working and saving money to transition victims to live on their own.

“These are women who’ve never been able to make a decision. Some of them have jumped from shelter to shelter,” Bell said.

The program is funded through federal, city and community dollars.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said the unique program is a testament to the leadership at Providence Place.

“They were willing to invest in this. A short program is only going to get you so far, but this commitment really gives someone a firm foundation. It gives them a place to be for a year and half,” she said. “I think the investment will be much longer lasting.”

The name My Mariposa Home – mariposa means butterfly in Spanish — is symbolic of the transformation they want women to experience, but that transformation is hard.

So there’s an extensive interview process to ensure the women who enter are committed to finishing.

“This is a program for women who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They are ready to say, ‘I want my life restored,’” Bell said.

The program accepts women who are pregnant and women with one child under the age of 3.

The shelter opened in February, but a special ribbon-cutting will be held at 9 a.m. Friday.

Texas’ first lady, Cecilia Abbott, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, of the 23rd Congressional District, and local dignitaries will attend. The community is welcome to attend, as well.

Monetary donations are also accepted to help the foundation continue its mission.

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