(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
Michelle Most can be seen speaking to a group of approximately 130 guests during a human trafficking community meeting at the Durand First United Methodist Church on Saturday, March 3. The event was organized by church member Tina Hasty, who is also a registered nurse at Genesys Regional Medical Center. Hasty was enthusiastic about the turnout and the information that was provided to everyone in attendance.
“What is so great about this event, is that it is helping us combine the efforts of Shiawassee and Genesee counties in fighting human trafficking,” shared Hasty. “We had some great speakers who provided information that helped raise the awareness of the children and parents in attendance. I really wanted to focus on the young people with this event, since they are who is primarily being targeted, but it was great to be able to provide the parents with tips to help identify human trafficking.”
“It is not just sex trafficking that we need to worry about, and the speakers did a good job of highlighting the other elements of human trafficking that are often not thought about, such as labor trafficking and forced servitude. Adolescent children are not fully developed when it comes to logic and understanding how to identify the red flags traffickers exhibit, and that is part of what makes them vulnerable. Teenagers have so much they are dealing with, such as low self-esteem and depression; at that age they are still working to establish their identity. It is so important for parents and children to be aware that this is happening in our community, and to be able to identify and correct any possible risk factors before it is too late.”
Most, a nurse practitioner and forensic nurse at Genesys, was one of the event’s featured speakers, and she described at length the many different forms of human trafficking. Also speaking during the event was Amy Rouleau, the owner and operator of Restoration House in Swartz Creek; Michigan State Police Trooper Amy Belanger; and Sam Black, the vice president of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Shiawassee County. Adam Bell, a professional self-defense instructor, provided a demonstration during the event as well.
Restoration House provides a safe haven for rescued trafficking victims and helps integrate them back into society. Rouleau is planning the Restoration House Annual Banquet, which will be at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 26 at the Crystal Gardens Banquet Center in Howell. To get involved by sponsoring a table during the banquet, individuals can contact Rouleau by calling (810) 399-9713.
Also provided during the event was information about SafeCenter and the Child Advocacy Center, both of which are located in Owosso. An invitation was extended to everyone in attendance to the monthly meetings of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Shiawassee County, which meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 11 a.m. at Covenant Eyes in Owosso. The meetings are open to the public. Covenant Eyes is located at 1525 W. King St. in Owosso.
To report suspected instances of human trafficking, persons can reach the National Human Trafficking Hotline 24-hours a day by calling (888) 373-7888, or by texting “HELP” to 233733.