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Life & Work with Dee Coleman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dee Coleman.

Hi Dee, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Samaritan Village (SVI) was launched in 2009 by a former prison chaplain, Rhonda Stapleton. From the start, it was a multi-denominational effort. Rhonda was supported through the Free Methodist Church and Summit Church. When Rhonda Stapleton, Samaritan Village’s founder, moved to Orlando, Florida, she bought a house right off of Orange Blossom Trail. OBT or “the trail,” as it is often referred to, is known for its high crime and red-light district dealings. People told Rhonda her move into that neighborhood was crazy, but she knew she was called to reach out to women in desperate situations. As she connected with women near her home and worked as a jail chaplain nearby, she saw women caught in a cycle of exploitation with no way to get out.

Samaritan Village, Inc. launched in 2009 as a transitional home for survivors of sexual exploitation and chemical dependency. Samaritan Village’s mission is to provide a safe house to those who have been sexually trafficked and exploited so they can heal from trauma, recover from addiction, take back their lives and become catalysts for change in their communities. Samaritan Village offers a long-term trauma-informed, holistic rehabilitation program for these survivors. Samaritan Village also educates and empowers at-risk girls and women in underserved communities against the tactics of traffickers to prevent trafficking and reduce re-victimization. Our vision is to see communities where girls and women live free from sexual exploitation and find restoration and wholeness. By the end of 2010, SVI celebrated the grand opening of a resale boutique called Transitions, creating an economic engine and provided a safe place for employment training for survivors living at the safe house. Transitions Resale Boutique continues today in Orlando (3843 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL) and sells new and gently used women’s clothing. All proceeds support survivors of trafficking.

I’ve been the Executive Director of Samaritan Village since 2016 and absolutely love what I get to do on a daily basis; fighting for justice and opportunities for survivors that promote healing and hope.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Due to being an underfunded ministry, Samaritan Village has unfortunately had periods of lapses and cancellations of the various therapies and treatments, as we’ve had to reallocate available funds to the most urgent needs of the survivors (often unanticipated medical surgeries and procedures). Samaritan Village continues despite COVID-19 to provide referrals, advocacy, case management, and housing to victims of sex trafficking. Due to COVID-19, we canceled our summer Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser, which caused a significant drop in funds for projects and programs. Samaritan Village staff had to work longer shifts at the safe house to maintain coverage and non-essential safe house staff have been working from home. Many of the trauma-focused therapy groups for the safe house residents (art class, yoga, music therapy, equine therapy) were canceled and individual therapy sessions and narcotics anonymous meetings were moved online.

The cancellation of the annual Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser means less available programmatic funding for trauma-focused therapy sessions and anti-trafficking prevention workshops, which benefit victims and at-risk youth. We anticipate already vulnerable communities in Orlando even more exposed to sexual exploitation in the wake of this worldwide economic and social disruption. Sex traffickers thrive on desperation in communities already ravaged by ills, including addiction, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and unemployment and therefore, we anticipate more calls for at-risk prevention education in vulnerable areas of Orlando. In the next 6-12 months, we also anticipate an increase in calls from victims of sex trafficking for housing and safety and therefore remain committed to opening a third safe home in 2022 to meet the need.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I spent the last ten years of my career working in the nonprofit sector, at both state and local levels, in various project management, marketing and development roles. In the early 2000’s, after learning about the horrific realities of human trafficking, I set out to find ways to help build awareness through personal research and volunteering at local agencies, including an A21 Campaign chapter in Southern California. I graduated from Denver University and hold a certificate in Leadership Practice from Rollins College Edyth Bush Institute. I am a member of the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force and I find the passion for my work in educating the Central Florida community about the realities of human trafficking. It is a great honor to work on behalf of the women in our community that have been sexually trafficked. I love opportunities to engage with community leaders and businesses to partner against trafficking. It truly takes a village to fight against trafficking and care for survivors. I am grateful for the support we have here in Central Florida from so many individuals, churches, and organizations. 

What do you like and dislike about the city?
I love that Orlando has a racially diverse population, cultural vibrancy, a year-round season climate, focus on arts and a thriving sports sector. However, affordable housing is tough in Orlando for many people and the I-4 traffic is not my favorite.

Pricing:

  • The Resale Boutique has clothing items in the price range of $1-$10 on average

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