The Gray Haven started as an abstract concept in 2007 when I watched a short video posted on an organizations Myspace profile. This organization focused primarily on the issue in southeast Asia and it had a huge impact learning that something so terrible was happening. It wasn’t long before my wife and I started to learn more about this issue and how it was not only a global issue, but a problem that affected men, women, and children in literally every country on earth.
Beyond the numbers, articles, and studies we were moved by the stories of young girls being forced or coerced into a life of prostitution and violence. It hit us harder than anything we had seen and wanted to do something. Human trafficking carries with it a host of emotions and thoughts many of which make you want to react immediately; with force; with an urgency to ‘rescue’ everyone who was being trafficked. We were no different than anyone else when we read the accounts of people who had suffered so much at the hands of others. I would say we sprung into action, but we didn’t. It was more like a gradual step followed by another gradual step. I can think of a million reasons why it started that way now that I have a retrospective view. But, in those first few moments and conversations filled with uncertainty and passion, all I know is that we wanted to create something. A safe place. A place far removed from where they were once controlled by others. It began with talking to friends and family around us. I used no filter to share the stories we were reading and I undoubtedly freaked a lot of people out with our harsh judgments directed at our culture and the ones who were perpetuating the victimization of others. I turned quickly toward a personal self-righteous campaign to tell others that indifference meant acceptance and that if they didn’t step up to react now then they were just as bad as the traffickers. I was a little(I’ll be nice to myself here) misguided. Maybe it was an attempt to make up for the years that I was unaware and now felt guilty that I hand’t been doing anything. Regardless, it was not with love and grace. It was with frustration and uncertainty.
After a lot of self reflection and realization we noticed that the people we were talking to wanted to do something. They wanted to be a part of a bigger story. A story that had hope, love, and thoughtful action as it’s foundation. We stopped telling others what they weren’t doing and put our energy into creating that safe place, not only just for victims of human trafficking, but for our friends, family, and all of others we were meeting along the way. What started as a reaction to an overwhelming issue was slowly gaining traction to form what Gray Haven was becoming–a safe place where we could begin the work to rewrite the tragedy. Remember how I learned that this was an issue we started to realize was close to home? And, when I say close to home I mean it was in our city, within blocks of our home.
Here’s where the thoughtful action came into our story. We realized our intentions and passion couldn’t be our only driving force. We had to take it to another level. We had to use hope and love as our foundation of motives, but then Gray Haven needed the maturity in order to make that safe place somewhere that would facilitate meaningful and professional programs that met the unique and complex needs of human trafficking victims. It was time to develop into an organization that did more than talk about an issue into one that worked tirelessly to provide the quality of care that each individual needs and deserves.
We formed Gray Haven into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the summer of 2010 and were recognized by the IRS on October 12th, 2010. We spent the next year and a half developing relationships within our community, developing our programs philosophy and practices, learning from other professionals, and assessing where the gaps were in services in our region. We discovered there was not an organization that existed solely to provide services to victims of human trafficking in the city we were going to start. An even larger gap was that there was no one providing case management to victims of trafficking. In February 2012 that all changed when we began to provide services out of a tiny office that wasn't anything too fancy, but for us It was a dream becoming reality.
Those years leading up to it wondering when, how, and where. Now we are moving forward. My story, Gray Havens story, is a lot like yours. It’s unfolding as we speak and there are so many characters and things at play. As our story unfolds over the coming years we hope you’ll be there with us–changing, dreaming, hoping, and seeing lives that were once being torn apart by tragedy are now being rewritten in the context of a safe and loving environment.