LSA and partners take steps to stop human trafficking
Human Trafficking is a global phenomenon and neither the United States nor Louisiana are exempt. In fact, according to national statistics one of the busiest trafficking corridors in America stretches along I-10 from Houston to New Orleans. Adolescent human trafficking is a major criminal activity in Louisiana where children from every walk of life are either abducted or lured by traffickers and transported to other states where they are turned into sexual slaves. Human trafficking advocate, Father Jeff Bayhi says “Human trafficking is the second largest illegal moneymaker in the world, second only behind the sale of illegal arms.” Between 200,000 and 300,000 children are at high risk of falling prey to the sex trade industries according to United States Department of Justice Statistics. The average age of a trafficking victim is 13. Through increased law enforcement efforts and awareness in Louisiana more and more children are being rescued from trafficking each day throughout our state.
The LSA recently partnered with Father Bayhi, Pastor of Zachary’s St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, to assist in his efforts to build a safe home for underage human trafficking victims. Last year, LSA Special Programs Director, Dr. Bobby Gaston traveled with Fr. Bayhi, Sen. Ronnie Johns, Rev. Rodney Wood and Louisiana State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson to Italy to visit a safe house there, founded by Sister Eugenia Bonetti.
Fr. Bayhi’s plans are set in motion to open a similar home in Louisiana near the Zachary area. The home will be run and funded through his non-profit organization, Metanoia Inc. Metanoia means, “change of heart.” Bayhi knows that this safe house, “Metanoia Manor,” will proved the type of environment that will enable these victims to learn the life skills necessary to find their self-worth and go on to live healthy productive lives.
The home will initially house 16 girls, who will be led and nurtured by four volunteer nuns and a staff of professionals including nurses, social workers, educators, and others. The ultimate goal being that upon completion of the Metanoia program, each participant will find appropriate employment and a safe place to live before leaving. Metanoia will provide a home school education including GED classes, psychological support including addressing issues of chemical dependency, medical and healthcare at no cost, spiritual awareness classes, as well as courses in basic life skills-all with the goal of self-sufficiency when they leave Metanoia.
Metanoia has the support of Governor John Bel Edwards as well as several legislators including aforementioned state Senator Ronnie Johns and U.S. Senator Dr. Bill Cassidy. Dr. Cassidy says, “Human trafficking can and must be stopped. As a doctor, I know healthcare providers are on the front lines of recognizing and then referring those exploited for help. Human trafficking is a crime against humanity; let’s join to stop it.” Last year, Dr. Cassidy passed the Trafficking Awareness Training for Healthcare Act of 2015, which helps medical professionals identify and stop human trafficking.
On April 28, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the future site of Metanoia Manor and Architect Trula Remson and Contractor Scott Deumite say that they are currently in the process of framing the structure. Metanoia Manor is expected to be complete by April 2017. The Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association looks forward to its continued partnerships and will maintain their efforts to stop human trafficking in Louisiana.