The Covering House is a St. Louis-based organization that provides therapeutic recovery services to youth survivors of sex trafficking. The work is difficult and often takes years of investment – but the mission is essential.
“We help in that restoration process,” says Sherrita Allen, the organization’s executive director. “A lot of people are really focused on the rescue; we don’t even use that as a word. We are what happens after they’ve come out of their situation.”
The Covering House offers two main services. One is the residential program, which is a long-term therapeutic home that houses survivors of sex trafficking ages 12 to 18. There, children take part in a comprehensive program – dubbed COVER Care – that addresses their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being with the end goal of successfully reentering society. It can last 12 to 15 months.
“We look at ourselves as a holistic program,” Allen says.
The other component of The Covering House’s road-to-restoration approach is its community-based services, which are designed to prevent and intervene in exploitative situations. Most commonly, this includes individual counseling, tutoring and educational support, group therapy, and identifying and empowering supportive adults.
These services are desperately needed – and especially rare in the state.
“In the state of the Missouri, there’s only four or five organizations that help minors with trafficking,” Allen says.
Awareness is key when it comes to tackling these kinds of issues.
“Since everyone is talking about sex trafficking, we want to tell the real story,” Allen says. “To debunk all of the myths of trafficking, especially for minors. To help people recognize the signs, especially more of the education for young people, and how to reduce those risk factors.”
Allen acknowledges that time can heal some of the wounds, but more still needs to be done. Monetary donations are always welcome – though the organization is careful not to tie a person’s worth to the money needed to support him or her. Individuals can also push for legislation that holds people accountable.
They can also hold themselves accountable. How?
“Not turning a blind eye, not saying, ‘This has nothing to do with me,’” Allen says. “Getting involved. Reporting what you see. Having those conversations with young people. Talking to kids and engaging with them.”
The Covering House, St. Louis, 314-962-3450, thecoveringhouse.org
Click to read: The Covering House helps young victims recover from sex-trafficking trauma with the help of donations, volunteers and community members pushing for accountability.
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