Tharros Place: A New Hope for Minor Human Trafficking Victims in Chatham County

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Every year since 2010, the President has dedicated this month to raise awareness about human trafficking domestically and abroad. Human trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some kind of labor or commercial sex act. In the United States, around 250,000 minors between the ages of 10 and 17 are involved in commercial sexual exploitation each year. Of these minor victims, 60% are runaway or homeless youth. In the state of Georgia, there were 494 cases involving the sex trafficking of minors in 2021. And Chatham County ranks 7th in the state for sex trafficking cases of minors.  

For years, there has been a gap in services locally to assist and address the needs of minor victims. But fortunately, that has changed. Established in 2022, Tharros Place is a nonprofit organization that will open up a residential home in Chatham County for female human trafficking survivors ages 11 to 17. The word ‘tharros’ is Greek for courage, and Tharros Place aims to create a culture of courage where victims can transform from trauma to triumph. 

“People have been talking about the need for this. We have two residential shelters in town, Park Place Outreach and Greenbriar, and they do great work for homeless youth. But this is a subset of that population, and so it’s really great to fill a need in this community,” said Julie Wade, Tharros Place executive director.  

The facility, which will be at an undisclosed location, is expected to open later this year. It will house 12 girls who will receive wrap-around services through a year-long program. The residents will receive schooling and life coaching, and they will also work with case managers and social workers who will provide support to them and their families. 

“Most of the girls are going to be Chatham County girls. These are our girls and our community. And I think that’s an important distinction,” Wade said. 

Locally, there are a few factors that contribute to the incidence of trafficking, particularly the busy I-16/I-95 corridor, the port and events that draw in a lot of people like St. Patrick’s Day. 

“Many of the things that we love about our community, they’re also susceptible to this type of behavior unintentionally,” Wade remarked.

Tharros Place is working to educate the public about human trafficking and the signs to look for to help recognize potential victims. They hold stakeholder meetings every six months that are free and open to the public to provide information. Tharros Place also has an outreach coordinator who is available to provide training to law enforcement, workplaces, churches and other groups. Wade advises youth service providers like teachers and coaches to be on the lookout for sudden changes in mood or dispositions, excessive tiredness, and an influx of new things, like a new cell phone, new nails, hair and clothing. 

“Often, you’ll see associated drug use with this as a way to cope, and the trafficker may be giving them drugs to manipulate and seduce,” she added. 

As Tharros Place prepares to open their facility later this year, they are asking for community support. Wade shared that it will cost about $2 million to purchase, renovate and furnish their residential building, and they appreciate any monetary contributions from the public to help. To that end, Tharros Place is hosting a Cocktails for Courage fundraiser on Jan. 27 at Cohen’s Retreat from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will be hors d'oeuvres, music and a silent auction. Beyond fundraising, community members can also support Tharros Place by volunteering. 

Tharros Place plans to employ about 30 people to staff the facility. 

“This is an economic development opportunity. It’s an investment here where we’re bringing jobs to people. We are committed to paying fair and equitable wages, which is the benefit of starting out fresh,” Wade expressed. 

She and the team at Tharros Place are looking forward to intervening for trafficked girls, hoping to change their lives for the better. 

“With the year-long program and the right mindset, you can be transformative and really change the outcome of some young people’s lives, which is pretty awesome. . . Because this is so intensive, it can be transformative,” she explained. 

To learn more about Tharros Place and how to get involved, visit tharrosplace.com/

About The Author

Chantel Britton

Chantel Britton is a compelling storyteller with an ever-growing curiosity. She's built a rewarding writing career for herself in addition to serving five years as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. She's an NPR nerd with a deep passion for all things travel, sustainable living and adventure. She...
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