Editor’s Note: Steve Jones has built Irvine-based Allied Universal from $12 million in annual sales in 1996 to the world’s largest private security firm with about $20 billion in annual sales.
He and his wife, Stacy, wrote this Leader Board for the Business Journal.
In the U.S., there are 16,066 substance abuse treatment facilities, 11,379 homeless shelters and 1,642 domestic violence shelters. There’s only one licensed residential drug treatment shelter dedicated to victims of human trafficking.
One shelter to serve the world’s more than 40 million human trafficking victims. And it’s right here in Orange County.
Vera’s Sanctuary provides licensed drug treatment services for human trafficking victims ranging in age from 15 to 26.
Residents receive 30 hours of weekly therapeutic services, food, clothing, medical care, psychiatric services, prenatal support and transportation. There is no maximum length of stay. Every individual can heal at their own pace.
The women benefit from educational instruction, vocational training, automobile gift programs, internships and job placement.
Vera’s Sanctuary, with its amazing staff, remote location and on-site security system, helps survivors feel safe as they heal and regain control of their lives.
And they do regain control of their lives; 90% of the women who have completed the shelter’s program are thriving.
They graduate from the program with careers, permanent housing and bank accounts.
College scholarships are provided at no cost to the resident. Today, 60% of Vera’s staff are licensed and certified alumni that completed the scholarship program.
You can’t put a price tag on saving lives, but there are expenses that go along with operating Vera’s Sanctuary.
That’s why, every year, we underwrite and host our Hot August Nights charity event to bring much needed attention the serious issue of human trafficking and save people who are in desperate situations. All funds raised go directly to Vera’s Sanctuary.
In the last four years, the generous guests, donors and sponsors of Hot August Nights have raised more than $5.5 million. This year’s event will take place on Aug. 5 in South Orange County and has a fundraising goal of $1.5 million.
We started supporting Vera’s Sanctuary after meeting founder and Orange County resident Lauri Burns.
Burns has saved countless lives. She’s made it her personal mission to change the world by redeeming broken lives, providing hope and changing the trajectory of the lives of countless young women by empowering them through her nonprofit organization The Teen Project.
Childhood abuse led Burns to lock down wards and then, foster care. When she aged out of the system at 18, she was homeless and pregnant without options or support. Soon, she was trafficked, working the streets as a prostitute to survive. As a result, her daughter was also placed in foster care.
By age 23, she had lost everything and spiraled into a dark existence. She was near a lethal overdose when she was abducted by Santa Ana gang members planning to rape and kill her.
Rescued by a good Samaritan and taken to a hospital, she entered a treatment facility, completed computer engineering classes and successfully fought to regain custody of her daughter.
The Teen Project
Burns knows the power of a good drug treatment program because she graduated from one.
Determined to change history, in 2007, she launched The Teen Project to transform lives by providing sobriety, psychotherapy and life sustaining higher education for former foster kids and young women at risk for human trafficking and homelessness.
Under the umbrella of The Teen Project, Burns launched Vera’s Sanctuary in Orange County in 2018.
It has provided rehabilitation to nearly 600 women since inception.
The 24/7 helpline Burns operates rings daily. Someone always answers. There are no waiting lists, voicemails or interviews, just a promise of immediate rescue and a new life.
As long as the hotline rings, as long as victims seek shelter and as long as human trafficking continues, we will be committed to doing all we can to support Vera’s Sanctuary.
If you have the means to do so, we invite you to join us.
For more information, tickets to Hot August Nights or to donate, visit HAN2023.givesmart.com.