Yesterday, we met with a charity in Baltimore called City of Refuge. They took us on a tour and told us many stories about how they “lead with love”. They live and work in a community where 55% of the kids drop out of school at or before 9th grade. Their goal is to change that reality. Their mission is to change generational poverty and the way they do that is to get kids to stay in school until they graduate and then get them a full-time job. They have seen enormous success in breaking the curse of poverty on families when even one generation decides to finish school.
The director of the center told us that there are two distinct Baltimores: the haves and the have nots. City of Refuge is located in a section of the city called Brooklyn. It is halfway between BWI Airport and the glamorous and affluent Inner Harbor; the places that come to mind when people hear the word Baltimore. However, the combination of poverty and location makes these young people ripe for the picking. These kids are solicited every day as they leave school to sell their bodies for sex. Can you imagine living in the poorest section of the inner city with a 55% drop-out-of-high-school rate, watching your single parent work 20 hour days, living in an abandoned house, having your clothes and food and shoes and even water supplied by a mission, seeing one of the highest crime rates in the country all around you every day, watching drug addiction in your school and neighborhood and family, having no hope, and unable to envision a future where your needs are met? If you can, then ask yourself what you would do if someone offered you serious money for sex after school.
Are you familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? It is a pyramid structure where foundational human needs are things like food, water, shelter, medical attention and safety. These people live their lives just trying to get into that bottom tier. Their life’s goal is to simply get the most basic of all human needs met.
Some of the things that enable and encourage human trafficking are:
- A vulnerable population
- An affluent population
- Easy access to movement via interstates, airports, bus stations, and train stations
- Lack of higher education
- Single-parent families
- The promise of having all your daily needs met
- The promise of being able to take care of your family
- High unemployment rate
- High crime rate
- Easy access to drugs
- High high school drop-out rate
- Lack of life stability
- Lack of hope
Brooklyn has every one of these things. People who have no hope are easy to control and whoever has the control has the power. Hopelessness breeds vulnerability. House of Refuge is trying to resist the tide and fight for the hopeless by ensuring education and work for all. They are trying to prevent this community from being victimized by human trafficking by empowering them with knowledge and skills to change their lives. It is amazing what one human, one ministry, and one generation can do.