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Juliette Fowler Communities opened a Youth Support Center to help young people in Dallas escape or avoid sex trafficking.

The center opened in the fall with five participants. In its first year, it plans to serve at least 25 people, ages 12-24, by proving counseling, mentorships, educational opportunities and emergency necessities, such as food and clothing, from various partner agencies. Transportation is provided for those who are unable to access the center.

The 3,000-square-foot center has a full kitchen, social space, laundry room, bathrooms with showers and rooms for classes and therapy sessions. Participants can also access a community center, exercise equipment and pool.

“Juliette Fowler Communities began as an orphanage 128 years ago, and since our inception, we have been inspired to help children and youth heal from trauma, abuse and neglect,” Nicole Gann, president and CEO of Juliette Fowler, said in a statement. “Juliette Fowler Communities is thrilled to add this needed program in East Dallas.”

Texas is the second largest hub for sex trafficking in the United States, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. While other Dallas agencies provide emergency shelter, transitional housing and drop-in care, there is no place for at-risk youth or survivors to go for services all in one place, Gann said.

“Oftentimes, these children are forced to juggle a bus schedule and manage appointments across many agencies to access whole-person care,” Gann said. “Bundling a spectrum of services at one location allows for consistent case management, provides greater access, removes the transportation burden and keeps at-risk youth from falling through the cracks.”

Referrals for the program will come from law enforcement and community partners. Partners include: Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, providing care coordination; Traffick911, providing intake and assessment services; Together We Thrive Texas, providing on-site advocacy; Cornerstone Crossroads Academy, providing education services; Youth180, providing counseling and mental health services; The ARK Group, providing training to Juliette Fowler staff and volunteers; Texas Workforce Commission, providing information and job search assistance; Our Friends Place, providing a life skills program; and Bob’s House of Hope, providing support for male sex trafficking victims.

The program is paid for through a grant from the Victims of Crime Act, which is administered through Gov. Greg Abbott’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth project. In mid-2020, staff members from the governor’s office encouraged Juliette Fowler to apply for the grant because of its success running The Ebby House. The shelter provides a home and support services to young women who age out of the foster care system.