A new shelter for children who have been sold into the sex trade is scheduled to open next summer in St. Paul.
Elected officials, police, and victims advocates celebrated the project today at a ceremonial groundbreaking. The shelter will provide a dozen beds for girls who are 10 to 18 years old.
Currently there are only two beds in the state dedicated for trafficked girls, and housing and other services are needed to help victims heal, said Vednita Carter, founder and executive director of Breaking Free, the group that runs that program.
"One thing we know is that when little girls come to us, the majority of them don't have a place to stay," Carter said. "All they know is the streets. Many of them have pimps, and they don't want to go back to that individual. What this shelter is going to do for these girls is provide that safe place."
The shelter follows passage of the state's Safe Harbor Act, which requires law enforcement to treat sexually exploited children as victims rather than criminals.
The shelter will be run by the nonprofit 180 Degrees.