Human trafficking has been increasingly on the minds of communities in the Valley lately, and the Center for Community Transformation has made fighting human trafficking one of its seven core initiatives. Human trafficking is not merely an overseas concern; it is a global slave trade that exploits individuals for their bodies and cheap labor.
Fresno has become a transition point for sex trafficking, particularly from Northern California to Las Vegas, but trafficking exists on our own streets as well, as girls under 18 who are being pimped are defined by law as victims of trafficking. This has raised the issue of the need for safe houses designed especially for these young women to be rescued and restored.
To that end, God has raised up Torella McAlister Minor, founder, director and administrator of Mollie’s House, Fresno’s first safe house designed expressly for girls who have been trafficked. I had the privilege to interview Torella and ask her about this wonderful new home.
CCT: What is Mollie’s House?
Torella: Mollie’s House is a safe house. It will be a home characterized by a holistic, Christian-based grounding. We will serve their emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
CCT: What led you to create it?
Torella: I have always had a passion for girls. I had my own struggles—not to this extent—but sexual struggles myself. I led a conference teaching biblical principles to young women and many of them signed purity covenants afterward. God led me to move from a group home for boys to a place of waiting on His next assignment.
In February, a mutual friend, prompted by the Holy Spirit, introduced me to Andrea Shabaglian, founder of Made for Them (MFT), an organization that brings awareness to the issue of human trafficking.
That same day, the Central Valley Justice Coalition had a meeting regarding a safe house. They were looking for a safe house for some of the young women they were aiding in the effort to end sex trafficking. I communicated to them that I had just finished working with a group home and was waiting on the Lord’s next direction. Mollie’s House is now a partner organization with MFT.
CCT: Who is involved in the leadership of Mollie’s House and who are the people it will reach?
Torella: I am the founder, director and administrator of MH. We have a team of people who are a part of the leadership at Mollie’s House—co-founder Andrea Shabaglian, a board of directors which includes a secretary and president, a CPA, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary’s On-Site Counseling (LCSW, LMFT, and MFT). We are also in the process of constructing an advisory board, which will include pastors, community leaders and individuals from social services.
Mollie’s House will serve young women ages 12 – 17 who are victims of human trafficking or sexual exploitation from family members or outsiders. These young women will be referred to us largely by social workers.
CCT: When and where will it begin?
Torella: We are waiting for our licensing to be complete and are hoping to be open by year’s end. It will be a 24-hour home. It is in Fresno, but its location will be kept confidential for safety purposes.
CCT: How will it work?
Torella: Victims will come to us through a placement facility, whether probation or social workers. We will then interview them to make sure they are ready to change and collaborate with our process. When they have been approved for our program, they will live in our facility and be a part of our day program. Our day program will consist of group and individual mental health services (addressing PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome, grief and loss, ADHD), and an off-site home studies program. Our mental health services will be provided and created by On-Site Counseling.
CCT: What are some of the hurdles Mollie’s House needed to overcome to get to this place?
Torella: This is a huge task with a lot of work. The doors have been opening and have positioned me at the right time to meet the right people and this has been a huge blessing. Our greatest hurdle moving forward will be our finances. Some of our support, 30%, will be through the government. The rest will need to come from elsewhere.
CCT: What the Mollie’s House relationship with On-Site Counseling?
Torella: On-Site Counseling is our mental healthcare partner. It is a huge help because they are seeing the same people all the time and we are a part of a team. Each girl will have an individual life plan developed with the team.
CCT: How can the people of God be involved and support you?
Torella: There are three ways in which they can help—through prayer, volunteering and financial giving. People can volunteer with our day program activities or with the fun activities at the home, whether it be gardening, poetry, etc. We will need help with transportation. We will need an 8-passenger van as well as people to volunteer to drive it. If anyone in a rural area would like to donate a home or donate furniture, clothes, create hygiene packets, offer tutoring, Bible studies, or mentor—any of these would be warmly welcomed. We are registered at Target, Anna’s Linens, Lowe’s and Mor Furniture. We will provide training for volunteers who pass fingerprinting and clearance.
CCT: Is there anything else you would like to communicate to our readers?
Torella: Human trafficking is a growing problem in Fresno, the Central Valley and the state. We’re not talking about prostitution here. The vast majority of women over 18 who are having to sell themselves would like to leave that lifestyle. But we are talking about minors—girls 12-17. They are often being controlled and manipulated.
It will take a community to rescue these girls, and to heal the deep wounds experienced by them.