A Father’s Love

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I received a call two weeks ago from a father was who leaving work to drive 11 hours to pick up his daughter. As he talked to me, he shared about her love for horses and how she was attending church. His voice would occasionally break, and he repeated himself many times. “How could this happen?” “Why did this happen?” The common comments that we hear over and over at The Covering House. I had no answers. He just needed to talk and the least I could do was listen.

To be honest, I knew already about this girl because Lindsey, our Director of Operations, had been contacted by federal authorities looking to find a place for her. I always know when Lindsey receives a referral by the sound of her voice. Her voice drips of compassion, sadness, and yet hope. The conversation goes something like this.

  • Lindsey: “I just got a call from the FBI and they have a girl who needs a place to go. After talking with her, she sounds like she wants help and wants to go through our program.”
  • Dedee: “That is wonderful. What do we know about her?”
  • Lindsey: “She is 15 but brought into trafficking a few years ago. She is from a small town. I spoke with her dad, and he is willing for her to come and get help.”
  • Dedee: “Are her parents supportive and engaged with her?”
  • Lindsey: “Yes they both are.”
  • (Let me add here that having supportive parents is always a benefit for the success of the girl)
  • Lindsey: “Here’s the catch…it is the same as so many of our other referrals. She is in the custody of her father which means she has no funding source. Her parents can’t afford anything. What do we do? Can we take her?”
  • (I’m torn. My heart says yes of course bring her. My head says no; The Covering House is already absorbing the entire cost of 2 girls at the home without a funding source. My heart wins.)
  • Dedee: “Yes bring her. I’ll figure out something.”

At one point, as I continued to talk with her dad, he said, “I will sell my house. Should I sell my house to help pay?”

I told him, no you don’t need to sell your house. Your daughter is welcome at our home. He expressed his gratitude to me over and over, and I could hear the relief in his voice.

I knew this man didn’t need to be shackled with another burden. His daughter’s trauma was enough for him to have to face.

So… “I’ll figure out something”… is that we need your help. Currently we have 3 girls at our home who have no source of funding which means no funds from Children’s Division or other state agencies.

Being completely transparent; it is expensive to provide care for the girls. One girl for one month costs over $4,000.00. This includes individual counseling, group therapy, specialized therapies such as music, equine, and horticulture, case management, 24 hour staffing, education both academic and experiential, field trips and outings, plus meeting basic needs of food, clothing, and personal items.

I am asking that you help us underwrite the cost of these girls’ care. Would you consider giving a one-time gift or supporting The Covering House on a monthly basis?  Please know that your generosity can be life changing for these girls.

Contributions can be mailed to:

The Covering House
PO Box 12206
St. Louis, MO 63157

Online giving:

https://thecoveringhouse.webconnex.com/general-donation

Thank you for caring,

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Dedee Lhamon Executive Director

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Thank God for the Fleas

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Thank God for the Fleas

March is Women’s History Month and we are introducing our girls to women who have overcome unbearable circumstances, found joy in the midst of difficult times, and those who have blazed the trail for success for the rest of us.

Today we remember Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie.

Cornelia “Corrie” Ten Boom was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, in 1892, and grew up in a devoutly religious family. During World War II, she and her family protected hundreds of Jews from arrest by Nazi authorities. Betrayed by a fellow Dutch citizen, the entire family was imprisoned and sent to a German concentration camp.

Thank God for the Fleas

Corrie: “Barracks 8 was in the quarantine compound. Next to us, perhaps as a deliberate warning to newcomers, were located the punishment barracks. From there, all day long and often into the night, came the sounds of hell itself. They were not the sounds of anger, or of any human emotion, but of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We would stand in our ten deep ranks with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make the sounds stop.

From Barracks 8 Corrie and Betsie were moved to Barracks 28. This Barrack had straw bed platforms that reeked of a vile smell and was infested with fleas. Corrie thought, how could they live in such a place?

Betsie: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’

Corrie: “I stared at her; then stared around me at the dark, foul aired room…The fleas! This was too much. Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea. And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

It turned out that Betsie was not wrong; the fleas were a nuisance, but also a blessing. They discovered that it was the fleas that kept the supervisors out of the Barracks. Through those fleas, God protected the women from abuse and harassment.

As we celebrate many women this month with our girls, we want them to know that no matter your circumstances there is hope and you can overcome. We also want them to know that we will walk through this journey with them for as long as they need.

One of the girls recently gave me this painting for my birthday. It hangs in my office.

Love picture

  • The Zig-Zag Lines represents her life of ups and downs before coming to The Covering House. She has written Hope under it which means that she now has Hope.
  • The Cross represents how her Faith is growing since coming to The Covering House.
  • The Heart represents the Love that she feels from us.

I cannot tell you how invaluable this painting is for me. I will cherish it forever.

Thank you all you are giving to us. Your gifts are changing lives.

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Dedee Lhamon

They Have Faces & Hearts and They’re Worth Every Ounce of Sweat

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Have you ever said, “I wish God would just show me my future, so I know what to expect and how to plan”? I have said these exact words. Looking back over the last five years, I now understand the wisdom of why God didn’t provide me with the 30,000 foot view for The Covering House. It would have paralyzed me from acting.

As 2014 comes to a close, I want to open my heart up to you and share with you some of our challenges, successes, and initiatives for 2015.

Five years ago when my husband Greg and I founded The Covering House, I had no idea what to expect. I sat on my couch watching a documentary on sex trafficking of girls in the United States and knew I had to do something to fight this. At the age of 47, I didn’t want to make a name for myself or create the biggest organization, I just wanted to make a difference in my little corner of the world.

I didn’t need to know everything, I just needed to find people who knew what I didn’t know. I shared the need and the passion to help girls and so many people with vastly different backgrounds and skill sets stepped up to help.

While I have sat on nonprofit board of directors before, launching an organization of this magnitude was a greater challenge than I anticipated. I was naïve in many ways about all that it took to open a Long Term Therapeutic Home. Let me share some of our challenges.

Challenges

  • “No Problem Here”. People at first didn’t think this was a problem in our area. I took a meeting with anyone who would listen to me about this issue. Persistence paid off. We now know that St. Louis is in the top 20 cities in the country for trafficking.
  • “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard). Everyone thought having a home for the girls would be wonderful, somewhere else. Yet again we kept our heads down and pushed forward and we were blessed with a beautiful home, owned by gracious landlords, and only have to pay $1.00 a year.
  • Meeting all the State Licensing Standards. This entailed reading a large green book to make sure we didn’t miss anything when hiring, training, setting up the residence etc. I am a bit of a Nervous Nellie so I read it 4 times.
  • Zoning and Fire Codes. This proved to be the greatest of challenge because state and local requirements are different yet we had to meet both. Let’s just say I know more about zoning laws and fire codes than I ever really wanted to know. I am also thankful to those who understand these codes and were willing to help us along the way.
  • Turning Girls Away. Let me explain. Currently, The Covering House has only 5 beds. We have designated 2 of those beds for private placement. Private placement is when either a parent, the courts, or a juvenile officer refers to us. The good news about private placement is that these young girls will have a greater chance of success because they have not experienced institutionalization, and we can receive them quickly which means less chance of re-victimization. The challenge for The Covering House is that we now have to absorb all the costs for any girl that is placed with us outside of State custody.

A Few of The Covering House Successes

(Both In-Client and Out-Client Services)

  • Opened our first Long Term Therapeutic Home
  • Provided services to 15 clients taking our total to 33
  • Provided 32 hours of Music Therapy
  • Provided 456 hours of Individual Counseling
  • Dedicated 108 hours to Court Advocacy for the girls
  • Provided training to over 70 Foster Care Families
  • Provided training to 900 St. Louis City Law Enforcement Officers
  • Provided Community Education to 2,702 people
  • Recruited 91 new volunteers to take our volunteer team to 150 people
  • Became 1 of 15 agencies in the State of Missouri to receive the Champion for Children Tax Credits

2015 Initiatives

  • Partnership with Horace Mann Elementary for developing a Prevention Program for 4th- 6th graders (ages 9-12 years old). This is per the request from the principal of the school since they have had 4 girls already victims of sex trafficking.
  • Partnership with Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital to establish best practices, train medical staff, and develop a Covering House medical home. We have already started the process.
  • Development of a Foster Care Program in order to help a greater number of girls.
  • Open an Emergency Crisis Home that will house girls for 72 hours to 30 days until assessment of needs can be conducted and best placement determined. (This will help keep law enforcement from taking girls to detention centers due to lack of resources)

Through this journey I have shed many tears, prayed earnestly for wisdom, and celebrated achievements. The Covering House team is incredible. Day in and day out they go above and beyond to insure that The Covering House moves forward to help girls. We are tired yet energized at the same time. We consider it an honor to serve these girls no matter how difficult.

The Covering House has come far in the past 5 years. The estimated 300,000 child victims in the United States are no longer a statistic to us, they have faces and hearts. They have fears and dreams. They giggle with the carefree innocence that every child should experience, yet they have to work through the very real trafficking trauma that NO child should experience.

We have set a goal of $120,000 for the month of December. We are so very close to reaching it. As the year closes, would you consider partnering with us financially so we can increase our services to other girls and the community? If you are interested in helping us reach our December goal, please click here.

Thank you in advance for your support. We truly could not help these girls without you.

Happy New Year.

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Deidre Lhamon

Founder & Executive Direcctor

A Plea For Help

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A plea for help –  “I have a 2nd grader who is a victim of this too.”

Two months ago, we received a call from a principal at a local elementary school. Her request, “Could you come and talk to our 4th– 6th girls about sex trafficking?” What?!

My response, “We don’t have presentation designed for that age group, but if you give us until after the first of the year, we will create something for you.”

Her response, “We need you now!”

So I set up a time for Lindsey and me to meet with the principal, school counselor, and another teacher the following week.

What we learned was sadly startling. They already had girls 9 and 10 years old who had been trafficked. I’m not sure why I was startled by that information when I know the average age is 13 years old. I guess because our youngest so far has been 12 and the thought of a 9 year old who should be jumping rope and playing hopscotch having to deal with this trauma just sickened me.

During the meeting we decided set up a date to first train the teachers, staff and parents about the red flags of trafficking and some of the behaviors that stem from this trauma.

The next step is to partner with this elementary school and together develop a Preventative Program that will be piloted with them. This will be a priority for us in 2015.

Last week, Lindsey went to the school to train the teachers and staff. As she was leaving, Lindsey was stopped by a teacher who said to her “I know that the program focus is for 4th – 6th grade girls, but I have a 2nd grader who is a victim of this too.”

Very few times do we find ourselves without words, but this is one of these times. Our hearts are breaking for these young children. The need is great and the pain runs deep. I’ve been told many times that these stories are too difficult to hear; my response “Imagine being the child.”

Would you consider helping us reach our December Challenge? Money raised will not only help the girls we now serve but also help us launch the Preventative Program. If you are willing and able to make a contribution, please click here and select the GIVE NOW button. Donations of any amount make an impact.

With a heart of sincere gratitude, I thank you.

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Deidre Lhamon

Pot Roast

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Pot Roast for Dinner

This week The Covering House welcomed another girl into our home. It is so important to us that each girl feels welcome, safe and special. So, one of the things we do for each girl within a week of her arriving is to prepare her favorite meal.

Last night with the arrival of Jessica (not her real name), she, the other girls, and some staff shared her favorite meal, pot roast, around the big farm table.

I try to imagine how she felt. Was she nervous meeting new people and moving into a place that she had never seen? Was she excited to eat her favorite foods? Was her bed warm and comfortable? Did she feel at home? My guess is that she probably had conflicting emotions running through her head and heart.

What I do know is that she will be provided an opportunity for healing. She will receive counseling from a qualified caring therapist. She will have an opportunity to play games, read books, learn and laugh. She will be loved unconditionally and know that The Covering House team is there to walk this journey with her for however long it takes.

These warm wonderful people invest daily into the lives of these girls. They work long hours and often go above and beyond what is required to make sure each girl feels cherished.

I feel privileged to work alongside such an amazing team of people.

At this time, I have a request. Would you consider giving an end of the year donation to The Covering House?

We have a goal of raising $150,000 before the end of the year. This money will not only help us meet the many needs of the girls at the home but also help us launch some new initiatives in 2015 which I will share with you in the next blog. If you are interested in helping us reach this goal, please click here and check out our progress.

You can also send a gift to:

P.O. Box 12206   
St. Louis, MO 63157

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

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Deidre Lhamon

Special Holiday Giving

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Help Provide a Special Holiday for The Covering House Girls – a message from our founder.

I always find that if you ask people for help, more times than not, they will rise to the occasion. My heart is often overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of those I know who want to make a difference in the lives of others.
So I am going to ask…would you consider helping us provide a wonderful experience for our girls this season. Here are two ways you can help.

Option 1
During the 12 days leading up to Christmas, our girls will receive a gift or engage in an experience to broaden their understanding of strong character traits. Each gift or experience reflects a character trait such as peace, responsibility, courage, patience, love, tolerance, forgiveness joy, thinking before acting, overcoming, perseverance and gentleness. They will learn about someone who has exhibited one of these traits whether through a story, biography or devotion and learn how to apply it to their own lives.
Please consider making a donation to help make this possible.
In addition to your donation, you can then send a special message to the girls, and we will share that message with them.
Please follow this link if you are interested.

Option #2
Send a Holiday Card to a friend or family member in memory or honor of someone you love. By making a donation to The Covering House, we will send the recipient(s) of your choice a Covering House Holiday Card with a hand written message. You can choose your design and customize your message.
Please follow this link if interested.

My prayer for the season is that love may abound, that you know peace that passes understanding and that God provides healing to those hurting.
As always, I thank you for your continuous support of The Covering House.

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Dedee Lhamon

Give Thanks

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Give Thanks – from our Founder, Deidre Lhamon

When I think of Thanksgiving, my mind immediately goes home. I think about my childhood and all the memories of having family and friends gathered around a table.  The focus of the meal is not so much the food but the laughter and time spent with people we love. As a child I was fortunate to have 2 supporting loving parents, enough to eat, and a warm home to live. Our life was modest yet we were comfortable and happy.

As an adult I am thankful for my own home and my loving and supportive husband and 2 daughters.

Today I want to thank Mikki Jones the owner of Bistro 1130 for providing a Thanksgiving meal to our girls at The Covering House home. Because of her generosity, our girls and staff will be able to sit around our 9-foot farm table and share a meal and create memories for each other.

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Daily I see kind generous people opening up their hearts and freely giving of their time and resources to care for our girls.

So, as you sit down to eat your Thanksgiving meal and reflect on all the blessings in your life, please know that as I sit down with my family and friends, I am thanking God for you who are walking this journey with us at The Covering House.

I am deeply grateful for each and every one of you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Deidre Lhamon

Progress

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Progress – a message from our founder, Deidre Lhamon

Today I would love for you to celebrate with us the progress of one of our girls; I will call her Beth.

In just 2 months, we have seen such growth in Beth. While she is becoming a leader among her peers, Beth’s greatest strengths are her acts of service and affirmation towards others. She genuinely cares about the feelings of the other girls and staff and enjoys helping them when she sees the opportunity. Probably the greatest way she likes to serve is through helping prepare meals. Beth enjoys to cook and bake for everyone at the house.

On Veteran’s Day, Beth went shopping with Lindsey our Director of Operations to purchase items to put into a care package for a soldier serving oversees. Lindsey told me how Beth put a lot of thought into what he would need and like. Again she is caring for someone else.

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Why such excitement for what seems to be a simple acts of kindness? Because a girl, who has experienced complex trauma through repeated sexual abuse, often exhibits destructive behaviors such as running away, self-harming, lashing out at staff both verbally and physically, and just shutting down. It is common for these girls to be completely introspective and have little regard for others.

So to have a girl exhibit concern outside herself so early on within the program is so encouraging, because we know that the program isn’t just changing her behavior but impacting her heart.

One more shout out about Beth. Her grades are improving! When Beth came to The Covering House in September, she failed her vocabulary assessment test. After working with John our Academic Coordinator for little over a month, she is now getting A’s in vocabulary.

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As we celebrate Beth, please know that I am so very grateful for all that give to The Covering House to help girls like Beth.

Sincerely,

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Deidre Lhamon

ACT Challenge – Modern Slavery: An Overview

[TRIGGER WARNING: The following post describes slavery and prostitution.]

ACT (Against Child Trafficking) Challenge: Do you drive a car? Drink coffee? Use a cell phone? Wear clothes? If you answered yes to any of those questions, chances are you’ve used products produced by slave labor.

Slave labor is vast in our world and our everyday products may be fueling this industry.

How many of your products are produced by slave labor? How many slaves work for you? You can find out here.

When finished, take a moment to go over your results. Browse the companies that fuel this problem. How many of those brands have you used in the past 24 hours?

Slave labor is more prevalent in our lives than many of us realize. In fact, there are more people enslaved today than ever before in human history. Massive shifts in population and social/economic development have made slave labor both cheaper and easier to come by. Few people realize the depth of the problem; slave owners can fly under the radar completely unpunished.

Many modern slaves are children, like this Bangladeshi aluminum factory worker. According to the source site, he is ten years old. Photo courtesy of The Atlantic.

Many modern slaves are children, like this Bangladeshi aluminum factory worker. This boy is ten years old. Photo courtesy of The Atlantic.

Trafficking isn’t just sweatshops. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) outlines trafficking as the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person,” either for labor or commercial sex purposes, “through the use of force, fraud or coercion.” The factories shown above certainly meet this description, but so do the following incidents:

Infographic courtesy of Kat Hensley.

Infographic courtesy of Kat Hensley

Human trafficking is not only an international issue. It is a problem that exists in the United States as well. By definition, human trafficking is defined as the exploitation of a person for commercial sex or forced labor.

According to the federal definition, sex-trafficking is a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that there are reportedly 300,000 American children at risk of being prostituted in the U.S. each year and the average age of entry is 13-years-old.

Infographic courtesy of Laura Davis.

Infographic courtesy of Laura Davis.

Sex trafficking and labor trafficking may seem like very different issues, but the underlying concept is the same: somebody is being forced to use their body in a way that is non-consensual, degrading and harmful to their physical and mental health. Both forms of trafficking use abuse — physical, sexual, verbal, and/or emotional — as a means of subjugation.

The bottom line is this: In every instance of human trafficking, those being exploited are not considered individuals of value but commodities.

The Covering House focuses on combating domestic child sex trafficking, however it is important to know about global human trafficking issues as well. To live in a world free of any human trafficking, we first must be aware of it — even if it makes us uncomfortable.

We can’t stop shopping all together, however there are a few steps we can take now to make a difference.

We will never be able to eliminate slavery altogether, but with your help we can provide safety, dignity and freedom to several girls today.

The Against Child Trafficking (ACT) Challenge is a monthly call to action from The Covering House, a shelter for child sex trafficking survivors in St. Louis, Missouri. Visit us at thecoveringhouse.org.