Long Beach, California resident Mary White works the streets every Friday night — she’s one among a group of volunteers who hope to help women get away from selling their bodies for money.
Gems Uncovered, a company of friends from 7th Street Church (formerly a part of Parkcrest Christian Church) volunteer their time every Friday night — no matter the weather. Members of the Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force also are involved in the effort. This month, Gems Uncovered celebrated the opening of a drop-in center for women in sexual servitude seeking services there.
On the street, White and her volunteers provide snacks, hot coffee and gifts and pray for the people they meet on the street. She estimates that her volunteers have reached out to more than 1,800 women who have been sexually exploited in Long Beach.“These people know they can come here and this is a safe zone,” White said. “I’m never nervous to be out here because God is with me. We have to be here every week and be consistent because we are the only consistent thing in many of these people’s lives because other people in their lives come and go.”
Since founding the organization, White’s group of volunteers has grown from 10 people to more than 25 people (a few among them have overcome their own drug addictions, homelessness or prostitution and now are helping others). Now, the group will be able to offer professional mentoring, job skills training and counseling in addition to connections with other organizations or resources that can help at the drop-in center. The facility also will host healing art and dance workshops.
“These individuals who are caught up in sex trafficking have no voice about what is going on in their life,” White said. “Until they find their voice, we want to be there for them. We want to help other sisters in need to escape the cruelty and overall wickedness of what is happening.” Once she started talking to the women on the street (some of whom have pimps, but most are prostitutes working because it’s the only way they know how to make the money they need to survive), White said she realized that what the women needed most was faith, love and support from other women. She said the women need to know that someone believes in them. As Christeen King, another Gems Uncovered volunteer, says, “I tell these women that God loves them no matter what they have going on in their lives.”
Learn more at Ashleigh Ruhl’s Long Beach Gazettes article: Human Trafficking Victims Uncover Gem.