Former brothel now used to fight sex trafficking - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Former brothel now used to fight sex trafficking

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'Elijah Rising' started with a small prayer group founded three years ago by Cat French. Today, the group and its mission to end human trafficking in Houston, has grown.

"This is our new headquarters," French said. " It used to be Angela Day Spa."

Elijah Rising just moved into a building located off the Southwest Freeway. Inside, staff members and volunteers are busy renovating and organizing public van tours , offered Tuesday and Thursday nights and Sunday mornings..

The tours involve driving around the city, pointing out suspected brothels, and disclosing the names of property owners. French says they may not know how their tenants are using their properties, but they're still making money off their actions.

The van tours actually led to Elijah Rising's current lease. After the property owner learned they were naming him during the tours, he threatened to sue, but French had all the evidence she needed to convince him to evict his old tenants and offer her the lease at a dramatically reduced rate.

Those who sign up for the van tours first get an up-close look at the new headquarters.

"That was a table shower where the consumer would lay down and have a shower given to him and a steam room back there. So when they came out of the shower, they would be naked," French said during a recent tour. "The provider would see there was no wire or hidden camera. The guys we sent in wouldn't disrobe . They'd come up with an excuse."

After the building tour, they pray, load into vans, and drive from their office in southwest Houston, through the Galleried area, to an area around the Houston ship channel.

"One time we had a girl come sit at our table, a cantinera, and the first question she asked is, 'what city am I in'," French said as the van's driver rolled past one of the bars.

Tania Nevitt joined several friends on the ride.

"The fact that there's women that come here to America looking for freedom and all they find is oppression and slavery (is wrong)," Nevitt said. "They don't even know where they are. They don't know what city they're in when they're found it breaks my heart."

John Ricca was also a first time guest on the tour.

"When you drive those buildings during the day, you would never think what's going on," he said.

Lance Farrell helped get the group signed up after he experienced his first van tour with 'Elijah Rising.'

"I grew up in the city," Farrell said. "I lived here all my life and to see the stuff going on in my city just turns my stomach, makes me want to throw up."

French plans to continue confronting property owners, hoping they'll follow in her new landlord's footsteps and shut down the suspected brothels as word spreads. Nevitt plans to do her part.

"Get on Facebook and use social media the way it can be used- in a positive direction," she said.

The concept has already worked once, but French says daily visitors to her new office are constant reminders of just how big the problem of human trafficking and forced prostitution is in Houston.

"We have consumers coming in here, still expecting to find the Thai girls."


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