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  • Writer's pictureLucy

Starting Over

A Riverside woman launches a group to help victims of sex trafficking.


Some businesses grow by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, human trafficking is one of them. Law enforcement officials estimate in some cases human trafficking has replaced drugs as the main source of income for street gangs and organized crime groups. In addition to law enforcement agencies fighting the problem, other groups have formed to help. One of the most recent is Riverside’s Rebirth Homes, a nonprofit organization serving victims of sex trafficking, specifically women 18 years or older, who have no resources or support. Debbie Martis, founder and CEO, says the idea for Rebirth Homes came to her through prayer. Martis talks about the newly founded group.

What motivated you to become involved in the fight against human trafficking?

As I grew in my faith and became aware of the problem of sex trafficking, I realized that I could not be aware and at the same time not do anything.

How did the vision of a nonprofit develop?

It started in 2008 after I attended a conference about human trafficking. There are 27 million people being trafficked around the world. I never knew it was happening on such a large scale. That was when my journey began.

Did you see yourself in a leadership role?

I thought my role would be just to pray because I couldn’t see myself actually getting involved. I had an understanding that it [trafficking] was happening here in the Inland Empire, but I didn’t know what was being done about it.

When did you know you personally had the opportunity to make a difference?

I saw some boarded-up homes and had the idea to restore them and use them to help restore people’s lives and help victims of human trafficking. There were a lot of open doors and a lot of yeses that kept me going. When I pitched the idea, everyone said it was something that was needed. The door never closed, and Rebirth Homes went public as a nonprofit in 2014.

What services does Rebirth Homes offer?

We provide professional counseling, group counseling, therapy; we support natural health by offering nutrition plans and support for dietary needs. We also host activities that create a bonding experience. We help with setting goals, career counseling, job skill training, and life skills training. All of our counseling is trauma based and focused on the trauma that sex trafficking can cause. We are providing a home for them, a safe place.

How is the program funded?

Rebirth Homes receives funding through our own fundraising events, individual donors, churches and small grants. It costs about $1,200 a month per woman to provide

for everything they need. Every donation makes a difference.

How can people help?

The biggest thing we need is to be connected with community leaders and groups. If someone can connect us to organizations and leaders in Riverside and other communities, that would be a great opportunity for us to raise awareness, to fundraise and to continue in our mission.

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