A woman with nowhere else to turn

by Will Espinoza | January 14, 2018

Scared, with no one to turn to, Carla* was in a country where she didn’t speak the language and had endured serious abuse as a victim of sex trafficking.  After being trafficked in several states, the prostitution ring was finally raided by police, who immediately placed Carla in a detention center due to her immigration status. A local non-profit legal firm was assisting Carla, but upon release she would have nowhere to go.  The law firm knew Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington operated a Trafficking Victim Assistance Program (TVAP) and reached out for help for Carla.

Though she was being detained more than 100 miles away, a Catholic Charities case manager went to the detention center to meet with Carla and begin the initial enrollment process to determine eligibility. As is often the case, determining when Carla would be available to be interviewed was difficult.  The case manager waited for nearly three hours, but was eventually able to conduct the 10-minute interview, with Carla’s attorney present.

A few days after the interview, Catholic Charities was notified by Carla’s attorney that they were working towards her release and bond.  However, the case manager would not be notified until the day of release, and the facility was a nearly two-hour drive away.  Working in partnership with several social services providers Carla’s attorney was able to find a volunteer living near the detention center who was willing and able to transport Carla safely to the Catholic Charities offices in Washington DC.

While waiting for Carla’s release the team at Catholic Charities went straight to work finding immediate shelter.  When notice came that Carla would be arriving in the DC area within four hours with nothing but the clothing on her back Catholic Charities was ready.  Before moving into the housing facility, Carla needed a health screening, including a TB test.  Unfortunately, Carla tested positive for TB.  After calling a local free health and wellness center to schedule a chest X-ray, the case manager was told it would be two-weeks before the next available appointment.  Knowing this was not an option for Carla, Catholic Charities reached out to a local Catholic hospital and partner agency.  The hospital immediately scheduled Carla for the X-ray, and waived all the medical fees.  With her health screen successfully completed, and identification ready Carla could begin to enroll in a housing facility!

Working with her intensely for the first week, Catholic Charities made sure she went shopping for new clothes, was provided food, a phone for communication, and had appropriate personal hygiene items.  Carla also received medical and dental care through Catholic Charities.  Staff made sure she had the tools to become familiar with her new city, knew what transportation options were available, and most importantly connected her with pro bono immigration legal services to begin the process for her T-Visa.

After spending a brief time in transitional housing Carla was soon moved into permanent housing.  She has shared with her case manager how she never thought this day would come.  She was safe, and for the first time in a long time she was able to communicate with her family in her home country.

In just a few months since coming to Catholic Charities Carla is making the most of her new life.  She has been taking intense English classes, where she is now beginning to understand and communicate in English, her teacher notes she is the best student he has ever had.  Through the Employment Program at the Catholic Charities’ Spanish Catholic Center, Carla has found work in the evenings, so she can continue her language classes during the day.  Carla navigates the DC area like a native, has begun making friends, and sees a Spanish speaking therapist to help work through her years of abuse.  While her journey to healing is a long road, Carla is looking forward to what is ahead and she continues to serve as an inspiration to all she meets.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of our client.