Fighting Human Trafficking With Love, One Person at a Time3 min read

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and Michigan District, LCMS video journalist Jeff Heisner talked with Deb Ellinger, founder of Elli’s House, about the ministry that cares for women who are victims of human trafficking. You can listen to the podcast here. Below is a summary of the interview.

Elli’s House is a non-profit serving homeless and runaway women involved in human trafficking in the city of Detroit. This Acts 2 Enterprise Innovative Missional Ministry supported by the Here We Stand campaign and other funding of the Michigan District, LCMS builds relationships through a street outreach, and offers safe shelter and provides education for the women who get off the streets.

One of the street outreach teams

The street outreach team goes out three times a week on the East side of Detroit. They hand out food, hygiene kits, clothing, and winter items to women who are in forced prostitution.

The ministry owns two houses where women can stay for up to two years, rent free. Elli’s House provides mental health and medical care, life skills training and help going back to school, as well as guidance on budgeting and saving money. The goal is to get the women to be self-sufficient to live on their own.

2020 was a difficult year, but several positive things happened as well, according to Ellinger. One of them was that the ministry received the donation of a house, fully updated and move-in ready.

Another highlight of the year was the progress made by one resident, Roxanne. According to Ellinger, she has been with the ministry for almost 8 months and is doing really well: she has a job and is looking for housing; she has also been growing in her faith and participating in Bible studies. Ellinger has a vision that Roxanne will continue to be a part of the ministry even after she moves out, possibly as a mentor.

Deb Ellinger (L) with Roxanne (Center) and a volunteer

Even though Elli’s House focuses on the East side of Detroit, trafficking is happening everywhere (Ellinger mentions one ring that was found to be active in an affluent community of Oakland County, for example). Ellinger emphasizes that it is important to be aware of signs that indicate someone is being trafficked. Two of these signs are: 1) a woman who is inappropriately dressed for the winter (no coat) and carrying a plastic bag or suitcase around; 2) a woman who appears to be controlled by someone else—she can’t talk or interact with anyone unless the person who accompanies her says it’s OK. You can find these and other tips at Elli’s House’s Facebook page, which also has a calendar running during the month of January offering ideas for one thing you can do each day to help abolish trafficking.

Current needs of the ministry include snack foods for outreach (at least 100 bags a week), gloves and leggings (used or new), and people to help the women with life skills, especially spending time with them in the house so they learn how to interact socially. Ellinger also says people are welcome to join them during street outreach.

If you want to learn more or get involved with this and/or other Michigan District, LCMS mercy ministries, click here.

Graphic and photos courtesy of Elli’s House.

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This blog is published by the Communications Department of the Michigan District, LCMS.

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