Mercy-supported Sanctum House restores victims of human trafficking

Left to right, executive director Karen Moore, Sr. Charlotte Young, RSM, and founder Edee Franklin plan to open Sanctum House, the first home for adult victims of human trafficking in Metro Detroit.
Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

FARMINGTON HILLS — Over the past few years, human trafficking in Michigan has been put in the spotlight.
From symposiums to state task forces to new laws protecting victims, the much-underreported crime is slowly entering into the public conscience.

But after the investigations, the string operations and the arrests, what happens to the victims?

The Sisters of Mercy, along with other partners in southeast Michigan, want to be part of that solution. That’s why the Sisters of Mercy have joined other groups in supporting Sanctum House, a new home where women who’ve been trafficked can begin to put their lives together, a place where they can reclaim their humanity.

Founded by Edee Franklin, Sanctum House is an undisclosed safe house in Oakland County where victims of human trafficking can live, receive medical and psychological treatment, learn basic life skills and begin to rebuild their lives.

The project has been in the works since 2014, and in November, the Farmington Hills-based Sisters of Mercy, along with various supporters including the Archdiocese of Detroit, the University of Detroit Mercy, Trinity Health Care, and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, will help open the Oakland County home to four women who’ve been victims of human trafficking.

“Sanctum House is a two-year residential treatment program for adult women who are survivors of human trafficking,” said Sr. Charlotte Young, RSM, a volunteer at Sanctum House who has served on the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, a coalition of various nonprofit and government entities dedicated to combating human trafficking Michigan . “In southeast Michigan, there are places where you can shelter women under 18 who are survivors of human trafficking, but there isn’t any program in the region dedicated to adult women.”

Sanctum House founder Edee Franklin said the home will fill a void in the care of victims of human trafficking.
“What make this program distinct is there are places adult women can go for two or three nights, but our program gives them an opportunity for transformation,” Franklin said. “We do an intense assessment with a case manager and a clinical psychologist. We’re client-centered, talk to women and ask what they really want in their lives. No one says they want to be a slave when they grow up.”

Four women will move into the home in November, but the house can host up to 16 women, where they will have 24/7 access to staff who will provide medical and psychological care.

“We first address the physical needs, get them to a doctor or a dentist,” Franklin said. “We address certain medication needs; get them to a detox (center), because many of these women are addicted to drugs. We then get them regular sustaining life skills, learning how to take care of a home, how to cook. These women don’t know how to live — some have been trafficked since they were 13 or 14 — so things like how to go shopping or balance a checkbook are essential.”

The Sisters of Mercy will tutor residents of the home, helping them get GEDs, and the University of Detroit Mercy is developing a practicum program to have interns work at the home.

Sanctum House is supported by a $29,900 grant from the Mercy Ministries Fund, a philanthropic effort run by the Sisters of Mercy, along with funds from the federal Department of Health and Human Services and donations from private foundations. Karen Moore, Sanctum House’s executive director, said such partnerships are what separates Sanctum House from prior efforts to help victims of human trafficking.

“Many organizations tried to do this in the Detroit area, but closed because of (lack of) funding,” Moore said. “We were fortunate to get federal funding, because they believe we have a solid program.”

Sr. Young likened the work of Sanctum House to the work of Venerable Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy who in 1827 opened a home in Dublin for women who were the victims of abuse and violence.

“She taught them a trade so they wouldn’t be victims anymore,” Sr. Young said. “The Sisters of Mercy have an affinity for helping the poor, and especially poor women.”

Franklin added the home will be a “game-changer” for the care of trafficked women in southeast Michigan.

“You have to think a woman who’s been trafficked from the time she was 14 or 15 years old, living on the street, has never had any choice in her life,” Franklin said. “When you’ve been traumatized for a number of years or for a short time, you don’t get well from that kind of trauma in a few days.

“We’ll be the only long-term facility in southeast Michigan with a program to help in this manner,” Franklin said. “We work with survivors all the time, and they tell us, ‘My God, you’re covering all the bases.’ That’s what we’re here for, the restoration of the whole human person: mind, body and soul.”

A previous version of this story stated The Sisters of Mercy sponsors Sanctum House. They do not. The Sister of Mercy are financial supporters of Sanctum House, a separate 501©3 founded in 2014 by Edee Franklin.

Sr. Charlotte Young, RSM, is a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, not to be confused with the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission, headed by Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette.

The Michigan Catholic apologizes for the errors.


How to help

Visit sanctumhouse.org to learn more about Sanctum House, its sponsors and ways to volunteer.