When Jessica and her family moved cross-country to Fort Collins, she couldn’t find a job. Why? She had a criminal record. As a teenager, Jessica was in a very abusive relationship. She was married at 16 years old and ended up being sold man to man. Jessica says people ask her why she didn’t leave. She says, “When you’re shown pictures of your baby sister and told you can easily be replaced, you’d be surprised what you can endure.” It wasn’t until she became pregnant that she had the courage to escape. Today her abuser is serving life in prison for human trafficking, but Jessica has a criminal record for prostitution.
In Florida, Jessica began building a new life. She got married and started a career. Fast forward to moving to Fort Collins. Jessica and her family had upended their lives and moved to Colorado to support their daughter with special needs. Despite her work experience, Jessica could not find a job. She searched for months but hit dead end after dead end because of her record. Her husband was working, but it’s difficult for a family of four, not to mention with a child with special needs, to survive off $2,000 a month. Amidst this hardship, Jessica and her family found out about The Matthews House.
Jessica met Tressa with The Matthews House during a time when she “literally thought [they] were going to be homeless.” Tressa walked with Jessica “hand-in-hand, navigating various resources.” Jessica says, “The Matthews House gave me hope again and Tressa was a light in a dark tunnel.”
After Jessica shared her story with Tressa, Tressa connected her with an organization called Free Our Girls. Free Our Girls helps other women like Jessica–victims of human trafficking– acclimate back into society. This is when the doors really starting opening up for Jessica. She started working part-time for Free Our Girls, which gave her the strength to keep looking for a full-time job. A few weeks later, she was hired by a different employer willing to take a chance on her.
The Matthews House did so much more than just help with individual needs. Jessica explains, “Not only did I find employment, but I was connected to my passion – advocating for trafficked survivors.” She says, “I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today without The Matthews House and Tressa.”