Project GOLD = Girls Owning their Lives and Dreams.
Project GOLD brought the legal and provider community together around the issue of child sex trafficking in 2007, and has been a leader nationally on the issue. The Project GOLD Drop In Centers use a strengths-based, survivor-led approach to provide health, social and legal services linkages, mental health support and educational enrichment to sexually exploited girls. Kristi House partners with Survivors’ Pathway with the help of funding by the Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families to provide outreach and services to LGBTQ youth overcoming sex trafficking, see more about Project TEAM here.
Project GOLD began the first Drop-In Center in Florida and continues operating the only ones in South Florida offering safe space and individualized wrap-around services exclusively for girls who have experienced or are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.
Today, Project GOLD operates two home-like Drop-In Centers in Miami-Dade County where members are empowered to develop their strengths in a non-judgmental, trauma-informed environment. They supported by staff who provide mentoring, advocacy, therapy, career coaching and academic support.
Project GOLD encourages referrals from public and private agencies, members of the Human Trafficking Multi-Disciplinary Team, caregivers and others. Referrals should include whether trafficking or at-risk behaviors are indicated and the services needed.
The Drop-in Centers are open on weekdays with special after-hour needs accommodated by the 24-hour Project GOLD hotline. They are located in undisclosed locations to protect the safety and privacy of members. For further information, please call Project GOLD at 305-547-6850.
Project GOLD encourages girls to actively engage in services and participate in a wide array of group programs offered at the Drop-In Centers. Project GOLD specialists help girls to identify, progress and meet their individualized goals, providing support and incentives for educational and employment achievements.
Since its inception, Project GOLD was shaped and directed by survivor input, reflected in the program name created by founding clients: Project GOLD = Girls Owning their Lives and Dreams. Since its founding in 2007, Project GOLD has evolved to be survivor led and uses a multi-tiered mentorship approach for service delivery.
While Project GOLD works as a team for each member, we also recognize that one-to-one relationship-building is essential. Therefore, each girl who becomes a member of Project GOLD is assigned specific staff members such as a Survivor Mentor, Therapist, Youth Advocate, Education Specialist and Career Coach, based on their needs.
Project GOLD Bridges to the Future is addressing this vital component with one-to-one counseling, educational and vocational support and connections in the community to identify strengths, forge linkages and routes out of trafficking.
Bridges to the Future is providing vocational/skills training, tutoring, financial counseling, job readiness assistance, education programs, and assistance with educational and professional certifications, internships and apprenticeships. Key staff bring vocational and career counseling experience to the program with a Faculty Team comprised of several highly experienced university researchers and community professionals providing project guidance to make a difference in girls’ futures. This program is supported by a major grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and private funders, and will build upon service to some 500 girls since Project GOLD began.
There is a strong link between childhood sexual abuse and CSEC (Child Sex Trafficking). Approximately 90% of exploited youth were sexually and/or physically abused in the home. Because of the abuse, a child might run away or be thrown out of the home whereby he or she becomes extremely vulnerable to exploitation in the streets.
Among children who are living on the streets, research has suggested that a third are lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home. Most of these cases occur in major cities such as Miami, where most minors are exploited by a trafficker. Once they fall into the hands of a trafficker, they are repeatedly subjected to various forms of psychological, physical and sexual abuse as a means of breaking their will and extracting obedience. They are also transported frequently from city to city to further isolate them and meet client demand. Escaping a life of exploitation proves incredibly difficult for most children and youth.
Kristi House and the Miami-Dade community forged an unprecedented community partnership when agencies which were likely to have contact with child victims of sex trafficking and youth at risk came together in 2007.
Some 30 agencies answered the Kristi House call to action and participated in the first training led by GEMS Founder and Director Rachel Lloyd, leader of one of the very few programs in the country at the time. A needs assessment completed by attendees showed that at least 67% of the organizations represented had juvenile clients who were forced into prostitution or pornography, a total of 180 known CSEC victims were seen by at least one agency in the past year. Although more than half of the respondents agreed that CSEC was an important policy or service issue for their organization, only 14% had the opportunity to attend a CSEC training.
Recognizing the need to better serve victims and to increase knowledge and community collaboration around this issue, the community representatives agreed to form a coalition and meet regularly to share information and strategize ways to better serve the victims in Miami, our country’s top hub for child sex trafficking.
In 2012, Kristi House and community partners advocated for the passage of The Florida Safe Harbor Act, which recognized commercial sexually exploited children as victims of a crime, not criminals.
The Miami-Dade CSEC Working Group made considerable progress, quickly, with providers participating in ongoing training and bringing it back to their agencies. By working in uncharted territory to establish protocols involving large, disparate organizations, they support Kristi House’s leadership around the issue locally, statewide and nationally with training and advocacy initiatives. The CSEC Working Group brought attention to the issue in South Florida.
Key community partners continue to include the State Attorney’s Office of Human Trafficking Unit, Miami-Dade Police, Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services, State of Florida Dept. of Children and Families and the HT Task Force members, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Thrive Clinic, Shared Hope International Restorative Work Group, and GEMS, among many others.
The Kristi House CSEC program was renamed Project GOLD in 2009 – “Girls Owning their Lives and Dreams” – a name chosen by the youth involved. The Project strives to engage this special population for services, encourage their healing, and pave the way for their future success.
Over a decade ago Kristi House became a training provider through the U.S. Department of Justice for the CSEC Community Intervention Project (CCIP) and since that time has been disseminating education and training programs and sharing what it learns through Project GOLD throughout the United States. Kristi House has trained more than 15,000 professionals in CSEC and presented the topic at dozens of major conferences. Its “CSEC 101” course is approved by Florida Department of Children and Families for meeting the required three-hour training for providers seeking to work with sex trafficking victims.
Several articles on Kristi House’s work and research findings have been published in scholarly journals.