The Renee Jones Empowerment Center has been helping victims of human trafficking for a decade. Now, the organization is growing. The organization has merged with the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Law Clinic to help guide victims with legal issues.
"In many ways — saved my life," said survivor Annette Mango about the center.
She said drugs started her downward spiral into the world of human trafficking, adding: "Losing my job, being homeless, not having anywhere to go."
She eventually found her way to the Renee Jones Empowerment Center. The center offers services including counseling, therapy, mentoring and now legal services.
Maureen Guirguis is Director of the Northeast Ohio Human Trafficking Law Clinic. She said if the victims have criminal charges, that is the priority. But they help with much more, Guirguis said, including, "housing advocacy, employment advocacy."
This is the first of its kind in the state and funded through a grant from the Victims of Crime Act.
"We know we have a unique model in doing this," said Renee Jones.
Ohio is the fourth in the nation for reported instances of human trafficking. Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo are all in the top 15 cities for reported human trafficking cases.