Eden House: Healing from Human Trafficking

by John B. Krentel, Member, Eden House Board of Directors

Eden House is groundbreaking non-profit, located in New Orleans, Louisiana, offering long-term housing and comprehensive services to female survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.1 We are the first dedicated residential shelter for sex-trafficking victims in Louisiana. Our two-year residential program, modelled after the Magdalene residential community for trafficking survivors in Nashville, Tennessee, employs a holistic approach to recovery in partnership with local service providers. At Eden House, survivors benefit from a safe, supportive environment where they can heal and prepare to lead independent, self-sustaining lives.

“A gift to the community” is how Magdalene’s founder Rev. Becca Stevens describes Eden House. Founded in 2011 to address the critical shortage of dedicated shelter for trafficking survivors in New Orleans, Eden House embodies the vision of two exceptional women: Founder and Executive Director Kara Van de Carr (Community activist and former U.S. State Department diplomatic officer in charge of drafting the Human Trafficking in Persons Report for Jamaica) and President Katherine Green (former Assistant Attorney General and Head of the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force for the State of Louisiana).

Eden House provides six to eight women with a safe, supportive, rent-free home for two years. Residents receive community-based services through individualized programs designed to meet their specific needs. The services, which are offered in partnership with local providers, overseen by Eden House’s Program Director, include: intensive outpatient substance abuse; medical and dental care; mental health counselling; art and recreational therapy; legal assistance; educational opportunities; job training assistance; and financial literacy training. Eden House works to support family reunification of its residents with their children and other relatives at the appropriate stage of their recovery.

The house manager is Resident Director, Clemmie Greenlee, who is herself a survivor of sex trafficking and a graduate of Magdalene’s model residential community for trafficked women. “Having been abducted and gang-raped by her captors at age 12,” Ms. Greenlee “was one of about eight girls controlled by a ring of pimps, men who injected them with heroin and, at times, kept them handcuffed to beds. For trying to run away, she was once stabbed in the back.”2 She healed by helping to heal others. “‘The one thing I had in my head,” she said, “was, [i]f I learn how to live and heal, I can get back and get those girls. I can go back and tell people what they do to us[.]’”3 “An African-American, she says that what trafficked women endure is absolutely an echo of what her ancestors endured on plantations. ‘If you’re putting a whip on my back because I’m not picking enough cotton, or if you’re beating me because I’m not earning my quota, it’s the same thing,’ she said. ‘It’s slavery.’”4

Having successfully replicated Magdalene’s model for residential shelter in only twelve months (October 2011 to October 2012), Eden House is in a unique position to help others set up and launch similar programs for trafficking survivors across the country. The Eden House experience offers an invaluable, replicable blue print for successful, cost-effective start-up and program implementation. Currently in development is a new initiative that would offer training, coaching, and counselling to organizations seeking to start residential shelters for trafficking survivors. The program would concentrate on corporate organization, corporate governance, legal services, business plans, budget supports, insurance planning, sponsorship, brick-and-mortar issues, partnership with service providers, case management, and post-shelter transition. By sharing its lessons learned, Eden House is positioned to become a dynamic incubator for new facilities offering shelter, healing, and hope to survivors of human trafficking across America.

John B. Krentel, J.D., L.C.S.W., is member of the Board of Directors of Eden House, which is a two-year residential program, located in New Orleans, Louisiana, for women who have been commercially sexually exploited. Modeled after Magdalene House in Nashville, Tennessee, Eden House provides six to eight women a safe and supportive home for two years, free of cost. Mr. Krentel, a practicing attorney and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a committed advocate for reform of Louisiana’s anti-trafficking legislation, including recent legislative initiatives to address the trafficking of minors.

  1. About Eden House, available at http://edenhousenola.org/; see also “How to Spot & Stop Sex Trafficking: Katie Couric Interview of Kara Van de Carr (Founder/Executive Director of Eden House” (January 30, 2014), available at http://katiecouric.com/videos/how-to-spot-stop-sex-trafficking/

  2. N. Martin, “Former Sex Trafficking Victim Shines Light on Dark Underworld of the Super Bowl,” The Times-Picayune (February 1, 2013), available at http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2013/02/former_sex_trafficking_victim.html

  3. Id. 

  4. N. Kristof, “Slavery Isn’t a Thing of the Past,” The New York Times (November 6, 2013), available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/07/opinion/slavery-isnt-a-thing-of-the-past.html?_r=0; see also “Clemmie Greenlee and Kara Van De Carr Discuss Sex Trafficking,” YouTube, available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iK_KH_tf3c