The Anchor House, a licensed non-profit residential care program and facility in Greenville, North Carolina, has opened its doors and is accepting referral applications. A project of Restore One, The Anchor House is designed and built to provide lodging, nurture and education needs of boys who are victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, ages 12-18. The Anchor Academy, also registered and licensed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, is an on-site and program integrated school environment that provides age-appropriate education for resident boys. Application forms are available on-line at the Restore One website – http://www.restoreonelife.org/.
“Health and law enforcement professionals have failed to recognize how many boys are abused and exploited across our nation,” said Chris Smith, Restore One co-founder (along with wife, Anna Smith) and Director of Engagement. Both were interviewed by NBC News in 2016 prior to project damage, caused by Hurricane Matthew flooding. “Recent studies estimate the percentage of affected boys may be as high as 50 percent.” Restore One seeks to open safe residential homes that are free of cost to male victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE). Restore One also counteracts human trafficking and human exploitation by community awareness, education, outreach and partnerships.
Research indicates that boys are as likely to be victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking as girls. In a 2013 ECPAT-USA research report, a leading policy organization in the United States focused on commercial sexual exploitation of children, concluded that the commercial sexual exploitation of boys was greatly under reported, and cited the need for more services designed specifically for boys. In 2008, research conducted by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice reported that boys account for about 45 percent of child trafficking victims in New York City. The UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 24.9 million men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking around the globe, in a July, 2018 report.
Chris and Anna Smith founded the Christian ministry, Restore One, in Greenville, North Carolina in 2012, initially planning to build a safe house for girls who had been sex trafficked. However, their minds were changed after learning that there were no residential care centers in the United States dedicated to recovering boys. “We learned that boys were neglected and forgotten,” said Anna Smith. “Across America, boys, just like girls, are abused and enslaved into sex trafficking by individuals and organized cartels. While we were met with resistance and even ridicule because we are helping boys, we knew they deserve the same level of care as girls.”
The Anchor House is one of the first and few places in the US providing specialized, holistic care for exploited boys. After searching for available houses and building lots, a 10-acre plot in rural North Carolina was acquired in 2014 that offered an attractive landscape and needed privacy. “Part of the vision for opening Anchor House, in this type of rural area, is to provide boys first with safety and security as well as some degree of outdoor freedom in a natural and beautiful setting,” said Anna Smith, co-founder (with her husband, Chris) of Restore One ministry.
“Chris and Anna Smith’s vision to restore boys out of slavery has finally become a reality,” said Restore One President, Mike Eggleston, who assumed executive leadership for the organization in June 2018, and was previously a Board Member. The process of obtaining state licensing and hiring a team of dedicated healthcare professionals were recently accomplished by Executive Director, Linda Royster, MA. At the opening of The Anchor House, Royster said, “I am very proud of my staff, a team of men and women who have signed up to run toward the wounded. I am both excited and humbled by the privilege of managing a program designed to care for boys who have experienced unthinkable darkness.”
Construction leading up to opening The Anchor House was delayed by multiple challenges. However, despite community resistance, the daunting task to fully fund the project (which is presently debt-free) and repair flood damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the two-building campus is completed and fully furnished. The main facility includes a communal, kitchen and dining space, class/study and consultation rooms, and a residence cottage.
Restore One, is a 501(C)3 nonprofit, that seeks to open safe homes that are free of cost to male victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and commercial sexual exploitation (CSE). As of 2012, according to a Shared Hope International Shelter Report there were no long-term recovery safe homes within the United States designated solely for male DMST and CSE victims. Shared Hope International has provided a partner grant to help defray the operational costs of the facility. The Anchor House is one of the first residential facilities to provide refuge and restoration to adolescent boys, ages 12-18. The vision of Restore One is to continue to open counseling and residential facilities to restore the safety and well-being of boys.