Home for sex trafficking victims on track after major delays

10investigates wanted to know if any progress was being done on Bridging Freedom's therapeutic safe home campus community

Just this month, during an FBI raid of more than 100 sex traffickers nationwide, six local victims were rescued.

That's why one organization is working around the clock to get up and running so the victims have a safe place to go, to recover.

But some worry this project is one the group can't handle after delay after delay.

A safe home for sex trafficking victims.

“'This has all been cleared,” says Corporal Alan Wilkett, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Bridging Freedom. “You can see the shape of this coming together,” says Cpl. Wilkett.

This is an exclusive look to see the property that is set to be the new home for dozens of sex trafficking victims.

We were granted this access for a reason.

10investigates wanted to know if any progress was being done on Bridging Freedom's therapeutic safe home campus community. On their website, it even states that this home is urgently needed as Florida ranks number 3 over all in the country for the number of calls to the sex trafficking hotline and the Tampa area ranks third in the state.

“We’re hoping by middle of next year,” says Cpl. Wilkett when asked about the date set when victims will begin to utilize the homes.

But let's take you back to the beginning of the project’s timeline -- something many critics have voiced their concern about.

State Funding Timeline Bridging Freedom by 10News WTSP on Scribd

 

The organizations says it was out of their control when it came to the projects delays.

A project delayed

A million dollar grant was awarded by the state for this project in July 2015. But then there was major halt, that would go through the next year, when the organization says the funds were misappropriated and that February 2017 date for the project to be completed came and went. Today, the money is still trying to be worked out and a new construction date has been set.

“That's what were all reaching for. We want to get them there as soon as possible,” says Cpl. Wilkett.

I also reached out to the lawmakers who according to the website, helped allocate the funding to be correct for this project.

Senator Jack Latvala said he was surprised to see his photo on the website. It has since been taken down.

“Since you brought to my attention looked into it and found the first year that it funded put into wrong category. So CFO Jack Atwater at the time wouldn't let them spend it on that because it wasn’t what budget specified. So last year, it had to be re-appropriated. Now I can expect that everything is moving forward," says Sen. Latvala.

Not enough places for sex exploited children to go once rescued.

But this isn't the only project designed to help sex trafficking victims that's delayed by the state..
10 Investigates found millions of dollars went left unspent from 2014-2016 according to a report by the Office of  Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. The report was titled  DCF and Its Lead Agencies Have Not Resolved Issues Related to Serving Commercially Sexually Exploited Children.

The report looked at the number of long term state ran safe beds. It shows there are still only 28 in the state of beds still at 28, even though the number of child sex trafficking victims reported to the state has increased. Last year there were more than 350 victims.

“In regards to human trafficking, no one has ever brought that up as an issue,” says Sen. Latvala.

“We are on the right track now.”

7 lodges, a chapel, horse therapy is just some of what will be offered at Bridging Freedom's site for their new safe home campus.

“What we are seeing right now a phenomenal amount of work being done,” says Cpl. Wilkett.

They hope things continue to move forward, so they can provide a safe place for victims who have been through more than we can imagine.

"To the victims that need these dollars we are coming as fast as we can. We are on the right track and right foot forward to get this completed,” says Cpl. Wilkett.

For more information on Bridging Freedom’s fundraising efforts, visit http://bridgingfreedom.org/,

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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