Meeting to raise awareness about human trafficking

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 5:49 PM EDT

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Tharros Place, a new nonprofit that helps support human trafficking survivors, hosted their spring stakeholder meeting Wednesday at Savannah Technical College.

People from various parts of the community were in attendance.

The focus of Wednesday’s meeting is to raise awareness of human trafficking in Georgia, as well as provide some updates on the work Tharros does to help survivors in our area.

Local leaders and community members gathered over their lunch hour to learn just how prevalent trafficking is in the Savannah area.

“Unfortunately, Chatham County ranks fourth in the state for cases of child exploitation and human trafficking. So, it is definitely a problem here locally. It’s happening to our girls in our community. These are girls in our community. These are girls in Chatham County,” Tharros Place Executive Director Julie Wade said.

And with the holiday weekend almost here, Tharros Place board members say their message is even more relevant.

“This weekend in Savannah is St. Patrick’s Day weekend. A lot of tourists will be here, and it’s an opportunity for people to prey on innocent victims,” Tharros Place board president, Pastor Marsha Buford said.

Attendees also heard from people who frequently work with trafficking victims, like Carra Henderson with the Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office. She prosecutes trafficking cases in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

Tharros Place leaders also had an exciting update to share – they’ll be finalizing the purchase of their shelter for survivors by the end of the month – something Wade says is desperately needed.

“For years, there’s been discussion in the community about a lack of residential services for younger victims of human trafficking. There’s just not a place that’s intended for them, built for them. We have some shelters for teens, but they’re not focused on trafficking. The closest one is currently 90 minutes away,” Wade said.

The shelter will assist girls ages 11-17, and it will be located in Pooler. The exact location won’t be released due to safety concerns.

Wade says they plan to have their shelter operational by the end of this year.