LUBBOCK, Texas- In observance of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, three local organizations and one business came together on Thursday morning to discuss how an upcoming event will support sex trafficking survivors in the community.
“We have people all the time say sex trafficking isn’t real, or it’s not happening in a place like Lubbock, where we have churches everywhere, but the reality is sex trafficking happens anywhere that there are vulnerable people,” said Jamie Wheeler, the Survivor Housing Director for Open Door.
The United Family partnered with One Voice Home, Voice of Hope, and Open Door to kick off the 2nd annual Texas Blue Sand Project in Lubbock. They asked community members to stop by United Express Fuel Stations to pick up free bags of blue sand starting today and lasting through January 26.
On January 26, participants should pour the blue sand into the cracks of sidewalks, which lets survivors who may be sitting in the dark without help know that they won’t fall through the cracks.
The United Family donated over 100 pounds of blue sand.
“These organizations exist because we want to walk with survivors in a tangible way. We want them to know that we see them and value who they are. They’re not defined by what they’ve experienced,” Hillary Cobbs the executive director of One Voice Home said. “We’re just here to walk with them”
One Voice Home is an organization that works with survivors of sex trafficking in a residential environment.
“There’s four of them in one house and they can stay for [approximately] 12 months,” Cobbs explained. She said One Voice Home offers trauma-informed services tailored to each individual.
The organizations refer survivors to the resources they need if they can’t accommodate a certain need.
The initiative leaders pointed out that each organization in the community provides different kinds of help, which is something they are “very proud of,” Cobbs added.
“We’ve been working together for a long time. It’s really nice to have partners that work with the same survivors and not duplicate services,” said Kristin Murray, the executive director for Voice of Hope.
Organizers told KLBK News that the event started last year.
“The Office of the Attorney General brought it to Texas last year, and so we thought it was a good idea and picked it up,” Murray shared.
The organizations started working together on prevention efforts a few years ago, but they didn’t roll out the Blue Sand Project until last January.
While the event aims to raise community awareness, Wheeler said, “[It’s] more importantly saying to survivors out there who maybe haven’t come forward yet, [or] are in unsafe situations that are hard to leave, [that] people do still see you and care about you. When you’re ready, there’s going to be a support system to come to.”
Community members can share pictures on social media using the #TXBlueSandProject hashtag.
To learn more about United Supermarkets’ involvement in this project, see the press release.