By Michael Sudhalter
Cat French knows that Kendleton Farms is a direct result of prayer and years of hard work and determination.
French, the director of the Houston-based non-profit Elijah Rising, has been one of the most active voices in the campaign against Human Sex Trafficking nationally.
Elijah Rising, a Christian-based non-profit, takes its message directly to the victims of Human Trafficking – whether it’s approaching women in brothels, hotels or wherever prostitution exists. They present a business card, and encourage them to call when they’re ready or feel safe to leave prostitution.
They’ve saved approximately 30 survivors during their first four years of existence.
French had a vision of establishing something that would function as much more than a shelter.
Earlier this year, she discovered that there was an 85 acre campus in Kendleton in southwest Fort Bend County.
French attributes the fact that she was able to begin buying the property for far below market value to an Act of God.
Elijah Rising is expected to close on the property by the end of the month, with plans of opening it to Sex Trafficking survivors by next year.
“Kendleton Farms will be a multi-faceted social enterprise community where women and their children who have survived sex trafficking can live, heal, work and re-enter society with a viable income, savings and job skills. If Houston leads the nation in sex trafficking, shouldn’t we be Number One in aftercare?,” French said.
The survivors will work at “Survivor Water”, a for-profit boxed water company that will be launched when the community is established.
Justin Wall, Elijah Rising’s Director of Student Initiatives, grew up in Sugar Land and graduated from Austin High.
He said community support for the project has been great, but donations, both of time and money, are needed to make the community a reality, and to add in-depth after-care programs.
Wall, like French, has a strong faith, and attributes it to the fact he ran into some old acquaintances for the first time in a decade and offered to secure volunteer contract services in renovating and retrofitting the campus.
Security will be a priority as well, with a fence and cameras. Kendleton Farms also plans on working closely with local law enforcement to ensure a safe location for the survivors.
Elijah Rising’s efforts against Sex Trafficking have been well-noted among the anti-Trafficking Community.
They offer van tours of areas to the public, to show them areas in Greater Houston area where Sex Trafficking is taking place.
One of their strategies is to identify the landlord of establishments, which they determine to be fronts for Human Trafficking.
French and her staff will then confront the landlord, who’s often a prominent community member, and inform them they have evidence of prostitution.
Legally, it is difficult to implicate a landlord in a brothel, but Elijah Rising has found that making the community aware of the landlords has been effective.
In at least a dozen cases, the landlord has evicted the pimps, at which point Elijah Rising offers to provide services to victims.
The victims who don’t seek help will often relocate with their pimps to another location.
Elijah Rising’s current office in southwest Houston is a former brothel. After the landlord evicted the pimps, he rented it to French at a third of the price.
Within the building, French and her staff established the “Museum of Modern Day Slavery,” which provides insight into the history and current state of Human Trafficking throughout the world.