During the height of the pandemic, Cast received a call from a young mother, Laila, with 3 children ages 5, 3 and 2 months, who were fleeing their trafficker. Cast’s shelter was full and so were the hotel rooms we had allocated for the COVID-19 overflow of survivors needing emergency shelter. Our housing team called over 30 other shelters; none could accept Laila with her children. After a week of providing daily emotional support, basic necessities and safety planning in her car, Cast was able to secure a room in its emergency shelter hotel, where we could quarantine safely and ensure mom and kids had all they needed to rest and heal from this harrowing ordeal.
“It shouldn’t be this hard to get into safe housing and to protect my children. They always tell you to leave but they never tell you there might be nowhere to go…You guys never gave up on me or my kids and because of that we are going to make it.”- Laila, Survivor
For every Laila, there are hundreds more, waiting to escape from their traffickers. Take Zahra and Maria, who were born nearly 10,000 miles apart, in the Philippines and Ethiopia, yet they crossed paths, were trafficked by the same Saudi Princess, and both landed at Cast, supporting one another through a global pandemic.
When the princess took a vacation to Los Angeles, Zahra saw a rare opportunity to escape the horrific abuse she faced, but Maria was too afraid to escape with her. Zahra called our 24-hour hotline and staff brought her to our shelter. She advanced quickly, learning English in under 6 months. She was thrilled when Cast secured a job for her at LAX.
Months later, on a second trip to Los Angeles, Maria summoned the courage to escape with the help of a hotel housekeeper who took her home while they searched online to find Zahra. They reunited and Zahra brought Maria to Cast’s shelter. She had less than a backpack of possessions to her name, and suffered such severe emotional abuse that when staff gave her basic necessities and gift cards to buy clothes, she felt she did not deserve them. She was doing well, but when the shelter in place orders occurred, Maria was retraumatized and put right back into the mindset of being trapped.
Not letting the pandemic halt Maria’s progress, Cast staff supported Maria in getting virtual counseling and her T1 visa, while Zahra served as her mentor. With a new life ahead of her, Maria moved into her own apartment Cast secured for her and will graduate from her medical billing program in a few weeks.
When our team gets the call, no matter the time of day or the challenges a case might present, Cast’s team and our community of survivors, will be there.
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