One of my favorite books of 2016 was The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism by Yuval Levin. I told everyone I know about the book—my grown nieces and nephews, my Facebook friends, people at church—and I think a few actually picked it up to read. Levin really connects to where we are now in our diversifying society, and he speaks about this era we live in where many people have lost that connection to organizations in our communities that once gave us a shared sense of purpose.
Levin makes the case that our society has become so fractured and so focused on the individual that comprehensive top-down solutions from the federal government are no longer effective in solving the complicated and diverse problems we find in our local communities. Real change and real solutions are going to come from the bottom up, solved by local people in the communities themselves. I think he is on to something.
Community problems do not come any more complicated than those created by human trafficking. The damage and destruction to the lives of women who are sold for sex cannot be overstated. They endure addictions, unimaginable physical and mental abuse, and medical issues that must be addressed before they can be restored to health. Poverty, addiction, and past traumas create a cycle that makes it difficult for victims to escape the hold of their traffickers.
While federal and state governments play a vital role in ensuring policies are in place to aid victims and punish traffickers, the job of helping victims recover falls to state and local communities and NGOs to provide care. Levin’s model of local involvement in problem solving provides a framework for addressing the unique needs of each community.
Local communities hold the keys to addressing big problems like human trafficking, and End Slavery Georgia’s compelling story is a case study in why this is true. Douglas Crumbley, Pastor of Journey Church in Rome, Georgia, tells the story of how the human trafficking issue became very personal to him and inspired him to reach out to other leaders in Rome to create the End Slavery Georgia organization.
A few years ago, a women’s Bible study group was meeting at Journey Church one evening, and the members noticed a young woman hanging out in the church parking lot. A couple of ladies went outside to check on her, and she told them she had not had anything to eat and was hungry. They fed her, and once she had eaten, she asked if she could spend the night in the church parking lot because she felt safe there.
As the young woman’s story unfolded, they learned that she had escaped human traffickers in Dekalb County when a john left the usually locked door to her room open. She made her way to Rome and Journey Church. Doug’s daughter took the young woman into her home for many months, and he was able to see up close what the road to recovery looked like for this young trafficking victim.
Doug felt the call to find a way to help more young women, like the one who landed on the church doorstep, find their way back to health. He reached out to local business leader, Thom Holt, for advice on the business side of starting a non-profit. After initially being reluctant to jump into a field he had no experience in, Thom finally came onboard, and the two began to build End Slavery Georgia from the ground up.
The learning curve has been steep and long—Thom told me they are working 15 hour days—but they have energized their community around the idea of being a bright spot of hope for trafficking victims in Northwest Georgia. On Wednesday, December 7, 2016 they hosted a packed house at a fundraising luncheon. They are looking to raise $400,000 to build a residential treatment facility in Rome. Residential facilities in Georgia are few and far between and right now are only located in the Metro Atlanta area. The End Slavery Georgia facility will be an important addition to the portfolio of services available in our state. They found a gap in services, and now they are filling it.
This is Yuval Levin’s problem solving model in action—neighborhoods, churches, schools working with the local community to find solutions to tough problems and building up from there. These communities are idea incubators, and as they learn through trial and error, they can lead others to solving similar problems in different places. We live our lives at the local level in our towns and cities, so it makes sense that we know best how to help ourselves.
End Slavery Georgia is a testament to what a few people with a heart for their community can do. If you are in the Rome, Georgia area, jump in and give them a hand.
Karla Jacobs is chair of the Georgia Commission on Women and a member of the CJCC Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force. She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.