Opened a year ago this February, Sanctum House is the first facility in southeast Michigan to offer a full array of support programs to victims of human trafficking, utilizing a combination of mental health, physical support, education, training and a spiritual program.
The organization is the result of five years of planning and development sparked by Birmingham-based Max Broock realtor Edee Franklin, founder and president of the non-profit sanctuary.
The idea for the facility stemmed from a self-empowerment program with Landmark Education in which participants were asked to identify something that was missing in their community.
“There was a lot of talk about human trafficking. We were hearing a lot of what was going on in the world with slavery, but we didn't know it was going on in our communities,” Franklin said. “We came to realize that there was nothing really being done for survivors when they come out. For many, they could go back to jail, or go back to their pimp. There was really nowhere to treat them.”
Now in recovery for 31 years, Franklin had struggled with heroin addiction for a decade. Drawing on her own experience in treatment, she believed the same methods that helped her could apply to victims of human trafficking, as many must deal with addiction and other problems.
“I had lived in a facility for a year-and-a-half,” Franklin said. “I feel longterm treatment is what really helps people. So, I went on a mission to start a longterm treatment program.
“When I got clean, I knew there was a group of 'throw-away women,' and there wasn't anything that made these women different than anyone else, other than vulnerability. I was a throw-away woman, and I knew there were a lot of throw-away women out there that really weren't. It's not really the truth.”
With no professional experience in the health field, Franklin threw herself into researching how to approach the idea, building support from those who would help it develop.
“I had no idea what I was getting into. I was a realtor by trade, and a special education teacher,” she said. “I had this goal, and stepped into being a person that could meet that goal, and every day took an action step.”
What developed is a two-year program for women who have been victims of human trafficking. The facility offers treatment to up to 12 women at a time who live at Sanctum House. The program uses a dual-diagnosis plan to address trauma and drug addiction. The experience builds self-confidence, teaches life skills and trainings based on intake and personal assessments.
Since February 2018, Sanctum House has seen 16 women. While not all have continued with the program, several have stayed for nine months or more.
“It's a two-year program, and some people come in and think they are ready and realize they have some work to do,” Franklin said. “They have to participate in a program. They have to learn to live in a community. Some aren't ready, but we always find them another place. Nobody leaves arbitrarily.”
For those who do remain with the program, Franklin said the results can be life changing.
“One just started college last week,” she said. “She had no idea. College wasn't even in her wheelhouse, and she got a scholarship to OCC… it's amazing the difference it can make, but it doesn't happen in a vacuum. It takes a lot of people to make it happen.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent