Many come together to create housing for victims Print this post

By Judy Bokorney (Special to the Florida Catholic)


The Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice has provided comprehensive care for victims since 2009. The program is expanding its services to secure long-term help for clients that hopefully results in self-sufficiency. The plan includes adding transitional housing.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Diocese of Venice supported this vision and donated a duplex in the Lee County for creating the first transitional house for victims of human trafficking.

“The goal for the transitional house is to focus on life skills,” said Program Coordinator Erika Pineros. “This is ideal for clients who are no longer in crisis but are not quite ready to live on their own.”

Catholic Charities CEO Peter Routsis-Arroyo (far right) is seen with supporters of the new transitional home for the human trafficking program in Lee County, including Father Jarek Snoisek, Pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs.

While residing at the transitional house, clients will learn self-reliance and connect with community resources that provide education and job training. Support groups also will be offered to victims that will teach coping skills.

“Some clients have been in a trafficking situation for such a long period of time that basic life skills were never taught and the trafficker had absolute control,” Pineros said.

Many supporters of the Catholic Charities program came together to get the house up and running.

“The generous monetary donations by the Galeana family were very important towards the actual repairs and remodeling of the building structure,” said Pineros. “Dick and Betty Porell took it upon themselves to purchase new appliances and furnish the duplex, and on many occasions moved the furniture and other items themselves. Their efforts not only expedited the remodeling process but it made the interior of the house look and feel like a true home.”

Catholic Charities Advisory Board Chair Patti Maurillo, an advocate for victims of human trafficking, assisted with volunteer time and donations for the home. The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women supplied the home with kitchen items.

“Because of the assistance and involvement of volunteers and generous donors, the development of this transitional housing component has become a reality for the human trafficking program,” Pineros said.

Additional housing in Lee County is currently being renovated and is expected to be available for use for transitional housing in the fall.

The Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program is based out of Fort Myers and offers services to survivors of all forms of human trafficking in 10 counties in Southwest Florida. The program provides victims with food and clothing, shelter, medical and dental services, mental health services, transportation, legal advice, benefit applications, educational programs, immigration services, and coordination with community agencies.

On July 30, the World Day Against Human Trafficking, Pope Francis lead the faithful in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in praying the ‘Hail Mary’ for the victims of trafficking and for the conversion of the hearts of traffickers, calling is a modern form of slavery “an aberrant plague… Each year, thousands of men, women and children are innocent victims of sexual and organ trafficking, and it seems that we are so accustomed to seeing it as a normal thing,” the Pope said. “This is ugly, it’s cruel, it’s criminal!”

For more information about the program, please call 239-390-2928, ext. 301, email, or send financial support to: Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc., Human Trafficking Program, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs, FL 34134, or donate online at

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