On Wednesday September 30, 2020 CBC News published an article on the York Region Police’s discovery of an illegal casino and “spa” operating in a 20,000 square foot mansion in Markham. This follows a bust in Woodland Acres in the City of Vaughan just a few months prior.
During these raids, the YRP seized 11 guns, more than $1 million in cash and $1.5 million in illegal alcohol. However, the darker find was the suspicion of sex trafficking happening within these illegal casinos and spas.
According to 360°kids HOPE Program Manager Jessica Peacock, “the term spa is often [a] sugar coated terminology used in the media… which is a polite way to say sexual exploitation location”.
And according to the YRP these “spas” have been popping up all over York Region. When it comes to who these sex workers are, it is often times your classmates, students, friends, neighbours, sisters and daughters.
These young women are placed in extremely dangerous situations and are forced into prostitution and the sex trade through violence, threats of violence, coercion and deceit. Their traffickers are often associated with organized crime, making it difficult and life threatening for survivors to leave.
What 360°kids aims to do is create more awareness of the real issues of human trafficking across York Region and the GTA. These survivors need our help. So, in 2014 we launched the HOPE program, which aids survivors aged 16-26 in York Region looking to exit human trafficking, move into safe housing and receive wraparound support.
Once in the HOPE program, survivors are given access to a safe nurturing environment, counselling, medical attention, and self-esteem building tools with the goal of promoting a healthy transition into independent living. During their stay in the HOPE program, they are also given access to employment resources and all other 360°kids support programs.
“One of the greatest need we have”, says 360kids CEO Clovis Grant, “is to increase awareness amongst young people about the dangers of this terrible crime and the impact it has on the lives of young people, particularly young girls, who are most often the victims of human sex trafficking.” And this is where our partnerships with York Region Police, the York Region District School Board, and other service providers have been making a difference to keep our young people and our communities safer.
We need your ongoing support to keep 360°kids’ HOPE program and others like it going, To give to360°kids please donate here.
If you or someone you know is in need of help or would like more information about the HOPE program and/or to make a referral, please contact 647-473-1584.