A 2nd Cup coffee shop works against trafficking
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 22:09
When visiting a coffee shop, one might expect to get a latte or an espresso, but a shop in the Heights is offering something more — information about human trafficking in Houston and how to fight it.
Located at The Vineyard Church on 11th Street in the Heights, A 2nd Cup is a nonprofit coffee shop that seeks to educate people about human trafficking, to partner with anti-trafficking organizations and to fund after-care programs for survivors of human trafficking.
A 2nd Cup founder and president Erica Raggett said she decided to do something to fight human trafficking after watching a video from an anti-trafficking group in Connecticut called Love 146.
“I saw the video and I was just blown away,” Raggett said. “I couldn’t believe that [human-trafficking] was happening … I walked away from that, knowing that I wanted to do something about it.”
In February 2011 Raggett decided to merge her desire to fulfill the needs of other people with a lifetime love of coffee shops, and the idea for A 2nd Cup was born. By September 2011 she had assembled a board of directors, and A 2nd Cup officially became a nonprofit in Texas, Raggett said.
According to Raggett, Houston is a major hub of human trafficking in the United States, partly due to its accessibility to international travelers.
“Because we have an international airport and port, and we’re right next to the Mexican border, people are smuggled in fairly easily,” Raggett said. “Since there are a lot of people being smuggled in, there are a lot of people who are really vulnerable.”
Raggett said Houston’s diversity also factors into the high rate of trafficking.
“[The diversity is] one of my favorite things about Houston,” Raggett said. “You walk down the street, and so many people are from other countries, speaking other languages. That’s fantastic, but it allows traffickers and their victims who are international to blend in. In other places, they might stand out, and people might say, ‘They’re not from around here, I wonder what’s going on.’”
Lastly, Raggett said Interstate 10, a major thoroughfare for traffickers, contributes significantly to the amount of trafficking.
“Traffickers will often move their victims to keep from being caught and to keep victims from knowing their surroundings,” Raggett said. “They use I-10, which runs right through the center of our city.”
Despite Houston’s inherent challenges to the fight against human trafficking, Raggett said the city is making an effort to prevent it.
“We have really great laws in place,” Raggett said. “We have politicians who are interested in doing things about it. I think we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s been a hidden thing for so long that it’s grown under our noses.”
Sid Richardson College sophomore Gretchen Oertli said she was unaware of Houston’s human trafficking problem.
“I had no clue that Houston is a hub for human trafficking, but maybe that has something to say for the need for a place like this,” Oertli said.
A 2nd Cup aims to make sure that Houston’s human trafficking does not remain unnoticed by providing customers the means and the place to learn about human trafficking. A 2nd Cup will help people get active in the fight against human trafficking by providing information about volunteer opportunities with anti-trafficking organizations, according to Raggett.
“I find that one of the first things that people ask when they learn about trafficking is ‘What can I do to help?’” Raggett said. “We want to help make that transition from interested person to active person easy.”
In the future, A 2nd Cup plans to start funding after-care for survivors of human trafficking, according to Raggett.
“When survivors come out of trafficking, they have tons of needs,” Raggett said. “They need education, counseling, mentoring, resume-writing help and [assistance in] learning how to take the GED. We want to be able to offer some of [these services] in-house.”