Host of Disneyland and featured as the most visited city in the nation according to Forbes, Orlando ranked 3rd in the country in number of calls to the national human-trafficking hotline in 2017. As bad as this issue is, the worst part is the unawareness not only by the Orlando residents itself but also the 62.7 million tourists visiting Orlando annually. As always, kids and young girls are the most targeted ones.

HT-2“Because of our tourism, because we are transient, because we are growing rapidly, it makes us a community where this type of exploitation is more likely to happen,” said Tomas Lares, founder and executive director of Florida Abolitionist, the regional nonprofit organization devoted to eradicating the problem. “Too often, we don’t know our neighbors, so a house where people are kept for trafficking is more likely to escape notice.” In 2016, hundreds of missing kids were reported in Florida.

HT-3Awareness is the main factor when it comes to prevention. As parents (adults or family members), not leaving your kids alone is the main and most important protection against this type of crimes.

Many Orlando residents experience the Amber alerts, and although it might seem like a too-often event, the truth is that is not even near to the reality of an industry that operates underneath our noses, “underworld”. Many little ones are never found. Some are though, but their lives changed the moment they were taken and “I’m sorry” or blaming ourselves will never revert that.

Changing the world

“A young adult prays with a homeless man in a park.” – The thought/concept of “changing the world” is often overwhelming. Whether is because of what it means or because of the hard work involved in the process. Either way, maybe the world cannot be changed easily but someone’s world can, and often takes just a moment. This guy gave money to his new friend so he could get vaccinated against the non unpopular flu, and also buy some medicines. A prayer and a couple of dollars changed this man’s day. Changing the world starts with me deciding to change someone’s world.

On the streets

Words by Tania Meridiaris.

   I have many stories, but perhaps what troubles me the most about their situation is that we can make a difference and in many cases we look the other way and ignore the problem. Being homeless is a problem that has a solution. Many homeless people were once working, social and active people in society. But something happened that caused them to hit rock bottom. It could be one of many things, but what troubles me the most is that there is a large number of them who want to get back to being the “working, social and active people in society” but have no one to give them a hand.

   A large number of these precious people were incarcerated for different reasons (some guilty, some innocent) and when they were released they had no home, no money, no phone, no car, no license and no one. Having nothing, they start roaming the streets and their journey as “homeless people” begins. It’s very difficult to get back into society having nothing. I have met very smart and educated homeless individuals that were once productive and very well off. Another HUGE problem is that if you have a criminal record, most places wont rent to you or hire you. It’s a system that’s incredibly crooked. A system that keeps one sunk like a ship at the bottom of the ocean. It’s a system that’s designed to make you fail.

   In my case I have helped homeless people apply for social security benefits, food stamps, medicare and medicaid, as well as found them a room for rent. All it took me was a little time and a computer. That’s why I say WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. God can use us to change a life. But it takes action on our part to respond. To not ignore a “homeless” person we encounter. A short conversation reveals a lot on the need that we may be the one person to reach out and help change a life.