BEREA, Ohio -- Personal experience led Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson to establish a foundation dedicated to fighting human trafficking and helping its victims.
"There's elements of this that we've seen first-hand," Jackson said Thursday as he announced the establishment of the Hue Jackson Foundation. "A lot of different areas in this realm that we're talking about that we've witnessed and have been privy to. It's something that me and Michelle discussed at length about what direction to go in, and this is where it led our hearts."
While the foundation has the coach's name, Jackson made it clear it is a family venture, with Michelle actively involved in the day-to-day operations.
"As parents I think we all know that these issues are out there, and you hear about it everywhere and they affect everybody some way," Michelle Jackson said. "And we're no different. As parents of three girls [Jordyn, Baylee and Haydyn], this touches us."
The event was about making clear what the foundation would do, and Jackson and foundation executive director Andrea Werden said the immediate effort is to provide safe housing for adult female human trafficking victims.
"I think people just think it just happens and you just start over," Jackson said. "That's not what happens in this situation. I think the lasting effects that happen to these young people or even older people, they need help. And I think to be able to bridge that gap and help in so many different areas -- it's not just physical, it's the mental ... it takes on so many different avenues.
"I think it's very important to lend that type of assistance."
The presentation included the definition of human trafficking: Modern-day slavery (that) involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. A heartrending film from the Renee Jones Empowerment Center in Cleveland told the story of trafficking from the point of view of victims. It detailed that victims in the Cleveland area have been found in the suburbs and the city, and range in age from 12 to 66.
Recovery is a continual process, Jones said. That is why the foundation will upgrade facilities and partner with the Salvation Army-Northeast Ohio to provide the Hue Jackson Survivors of Human Trafficking Residence. The residence will provide 12 beds for women along with office space for law enforcement, health care and social service professionals.
"The foundation believes that in order for survivors to break this trafficking cycle, secure housing is critical," Jackson said.
Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine, whose office has established a human trafficking commission, said that Jackson's shining a spotlight on the issue would be a major aid in fighting the problem. He said the Jacksons had taken the fight "to a different level."
"Lives will be saved," DeWine said. "It matters."