Human sex trafficking 'a big problem' in Palm Beach County
Advocates open intake center in Delray Beach
5:50 PM, May 13, 2013
8:26 AM, May 14, 2013
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Cathy Iho has goose bumps thinking about the lives that will change in the room she is showing.
"Having a facility here in Palm Beach County is my dream, I'm excited about it," said Cathy.
Cathy is in charge of a new intake center in Delray Beach, where sex trafficking victims can turn for help. Over the last year, dozens of victims from Palm Beach County found refuge with "B.E.S.T.", a Miami-based organization dedicated to ending human trafficking. The organization recently received numerous tips about victims from Boca Raton to the Treasure Coast.
"It's a big problem in Broward and Palm Beach. It will be easier to bring them here as oppose to Miami. We don't want them to have to travel or find their way down there," said Etty Foodman, a member of the Board of Directors for B.E.S.T. It stands for Building Empowerment by Stopping Trafficking, and is privately funded.
"These victims need someone to advocate for them, so right off the bat we provide them an attorney," said Cathy Iho.
Victims come in and rarely have more than the clothes they're wearing. B.E.S.T. offers them clothes, a safe place to live and counseling.
"We help them stabilize and give them immediately help so they can move forward," said Foodman.
Advocates say pinpointing how severe the problem is in our area is almost impossible. In part because victims are moved around a lot, and often too scared to prosecute.
In 2010 the State of Florida helped 55 human trafficking victims, advocates fear there are hundreds more that are unreported. It's estimated 27 million people are enslaved throughout the world.
"I think the key is to get the word out, educate people. It's out there and a severe problem," said Cathy Iho.
Human trafficking affects men and women of all ages and all backgrounds.