Sex trafficking victims can find shelter soon in Waite Park

Victims of sex trafficking soon will have a safe place to call home in Waite Park. 

Terebinth Refuge plans to open a house by early April that can house six people. Eventually, leaders are aiming for an 18-bed shelter and transitional housing for victims of sex trafficking, said CeCe Terlouw, executive director of Terebinth Refuge.

For now, they'll be renting a house owned by the city of Waite Park. Police Chief Dave Bentrud helped secure the home that will become the shelter. It had been vacant and was showing signs of decay. 

"The timing was right," Bentrud said. "(The city) can charge rent and it helps them get started. It's a win-win." 

Leaders expect the situation to last about two years, and hope they will be able to raise enough funds for a larger facility by the time the lease is up. 

The refuge plans to provide faith-centered services with a holistic, relationship-building approach to healing, Terlouw said. 

The shelter is one of the first steps in getting victims out of sex trafficking. Many stay or go back to that life because they have nowhere else to go. 

CeCe Terlouw, executive director of Terebinth Refuge, hopes to open the home in early April. It will serve as transitional housing for victims of sex trafficking and can house six people. Eventually, the goal is an 18-bed shelter

“It’s been disturbing to watch women walk from the safety of law enforcement into a car driven by their pimp," Bentrud said. "We take them in and do everything we can to encourage them to leave their trafficker, but we have nowhere safe for them to go."

"We have had a few incidents as a result of investigations that really could have used ... a crisis bed," he said. 

Trafficked women and girls often have needs that differ from people who end up in shelters for homelessness and domestic violence. There really was no place for them to go, Bentrud said. 

It's coming at a good time. Local groups received a grant that will fund anti-trafficking work locally via the Central Minnesota Sex Trafficking Investigative Task Force. 

Two investigators — one each from Waite Park and St. Cloud — will begin working on trafficking cases full time in March. The officers will provide education to the community as well as investigate sex trafficking. 

Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud and CeCe Terlouw, executive director of Terebinth Refuge, tour a home Monday, Feb. 12, that will be the new shelter and transitional housing for victims of sex trafficking.

Bentrud said the investigators also will be able to reduce demand for paid sex by targeting buyers. 

"We've been pretty successful working on this issue, more or less part time," Bentrud said. "Part of me feels like we're only hitting the tip of the iceberg ... and there's a lot more we're going to uncover." 

All the more reason to get Terebinth Refuge operating in some capacity. 

"It is anticipated they are going to have more and more encounters with victims," Bentrud said. "And the need for a safe place, a safe house is going up — up significantly." 

Still, the house is a temporary measure.

"In the long term, we will need a larger place," Terlouw said. "It won’t take long for these six beds to be full.”

She hopes the refuge, when completed, will be the first of its kind in Minnesota.

It will specifically aim to help adult women who have been trafficked. Many have spent years being exploited and abused and have little hope for the future, she said. 

“The easier it becomes for these women to decide to leave, the less trafficking there will be in our community and counties," Bentrud said.

Helping survivors re-establish their lives can be difficult. 

In additional to the physical, mental and emotional trauma victims have to cope with, there are also practical challenges. 

Many have little education, have never had a traditional job and lack a credit history. They also have criminal records from prostitution charges, illegal drug use or other activities that resulted from being trafficked. Some don't even have identification. 

Bentrud said the details are still being worked out, but he expects the new shelter to offer crisis, short-term housing. It can house women temporarily while helping them identify other avenues of support. 

The opportunity to use the house in Waite Park came unexpectedly and happened pretty fast, Terlouw said. She's excited to begin cleaning up and furnishing the house, and getting supplies ready for women. 

Terlouw credited the interest and generosity of the St. Cloud community for being able to open the house so soon. 

"At every event where I speak about sex trafficking, people ask what they can do to help."


Written by, Stephanie Dickrell St. Cloud Times



10 ways to be aware in your community

Ten signs of sex trafficking in a community:

  1. A business where employees both live and work, with unusually crowded arrangements; E.g.,restaurant, nail salon, massage parlor, farm
  2. A building or home with an unusual amount of surveillance equipment- a level not normal for the type of property it is
  3. Men offering young girls a ride at city bus stops or transportation terminals
  4. An older man with a younger girl at a salon, requesting make-up application and a hairstyle not suitable for her age
  5.  A young girl with a bar code tattoo or one that says “Daddy,” or a man’s name

    (Specific to travel)
  6. A young person in a hotel room in the middle of the day
  7. An older man and a child checking into a hotel with no luggage
  8. Unusual pattern of visitation to a hotel room
  9. For hotel housekeepers: unusual amount of towels being used; condoms in the trash; presence of multiple keys to other hotel rooms
  10. At airports: young females following an older male, making no eye contact and looking to their “Daddy” for permission to speak


Five things you can do to help STOP sex trafficking in MN:

  1. If you are suspicious of sex trafficking activity call your local law enforcement- or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888; Text: 233733

  2. If a child/woman comes to you for help, call the Safe Harbor 24-hour Crisis Line: (800) 291-2139
  3. Reduce the demand for sex trafficking through the Don’t Buy It project; visit
  4. Value the humanness in everyone
  5. Share this email with everyone on your contact list. Be Aware and Share!


“One in seven American men admit to buying sex in his lifetime. White, middle-aged, married men with middle to upper socio-economic backgrounds are the primary purchasers.”   

10 Ways To Be Aware in Neighborhoods

Ten signs of sex trafficking in your neighborhood, and home:

  1. A home that attracts a lot of car traffic, day and night
  2. Unusual amount of people living in the same home or apartment with seemingly odd habits
  3. A group of girls living together in an apartment or house- with 24/7 traffic
  4. Lurking, slow-driving vehicles at your parks, school or neighborhood bus stop- wherever children gather
  5. Appearance of locks on doors or windows that are keeping people in, not out
  6. A woman, or girl, anxiously trying to get the attention of men at gas stations or convenient stores
  7. A child has become secretive, spending a lot of time alone in their room
  8. A child’s shiny personality has become dull- they’ve withdrawn and seem sad and have a drastic change in appearance 
  9. A child seems unusually and increasingly attached to their phone
  10. A child talks about new friends they’ve met on the internet, and is detaching from old friends

What You Can Do

Five things you can do to help STOP sex trafficking in MN:

  1. If you are suspicious of a home, an apartment, or activity in your neighborhood, call your local law enforcement- pay attention to things like faces, license plates, dates and times
  2. If a woman, child, or neighbor comes to you for help, call the Safe Harbor 24-hour Crisis Line: (800) 291-2139
  3. Learn simple steps on how to be a smart-phone and internet-savvy parent at
  4. If your child presents any of the symptoms of being groomed by a sex trafficker, talk to a counselor at school, a therapist, or call Terebinth Refuge @ (320) 828-7721. Do not respond with shock or panic as this will cause the child to shut down
  5. Share this email with everyone on your contact list and in your neighborhood- Be Aware and Share!


“In the United States, as many as 2.8 million kids run way from home every year. Within 48 hours of being on the run they will be approached by a pimp, trafficker or perpetrator looking to sexually exploit them."

10 Ways to Be Aware in Schools

Be Aware: In Your Schools

Ten signs that a child/student might be a victim of sex trafficking:

  1. Unexplained absences from school for a period of time, and then returning
  2. Frequent trips to nurse’s office—unexplained bruises or other physical trauma; requests concerning sexual issues
  3. Decline in grades and dropping out of school activities
  4. Withdrawn, fearful and secretive—drops long-term friendships
  5. Makes reference to frequent travel to other towns and cities
  6. Inappropriately dressed—based on age, weather and surroundings
  7. Demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behavior or material possessions (expensive ones)
  8. Has a “significant other” that is noticeably older (10+ years) than her, or in some cases, him
  9. Highly and fearfully attached to cell phone
  10. Engages in promiscuous behavior and may be labeled “fast” by peers

What You Can Do

Five things you can do to help STOP sex trafficking in MN:

  1. If you suspect a child might be a victim, call your local law enforcement
  2. If a child/student comes to you for help, call the Safe Harbor 24-hour Crisis Line: (800) 291-2139
  3. To further educate school professionals, or a parent’s group, or for answers to any questions regarding sex trafficking, call Terebinth Refuge: 320-828-7721
  4. Show your support and wear blue on Thursday, January 11th! It’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
  5. Share this email with everyone in your contact list who might be around, or work with, children/students on a regular basis. Be Aware and Share!


According to Rebecca Kotz of the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center, children in all levels of our schools are accessing hardcore pornography on their school laptops and tablets. It is not a question of if children will see porn, but a matter ofwhen. This is what grooms children into both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence and trafficking.