News 5 Investigates: Helping Human Trafficking Survivors on the Gulf Coast


You may remember earlier this week, nine people were found dead in the bed of a tractor trailer outside San Antonio, Texas.  The conditions were so horrible, there was barely any air to breathe or water to drink.  Dozens of people in the trailer had to be hospitalized.

The driver, 60-year-old James Mathew Bradley, Jr. of Clearwater, Florida, has been charged, and may soon face the death penalty.

News 5's Hayley Minogue has been investigating human trafficking in the Panhandle in recent months and continued her coverage locally after hearing about this incident, described as 'horrific' by the San Antonio police chief.

"They're human beings," Michelle Jones, Refuge for Women Emerald Coast said about the people who died in San Antonio over the weekend.  "And so, that breaks my heart. But when I saw the word Florida... I had to read that three times. Here we are again. Floridas popping up again. It seems to be the norm."

Jones works with human trafficking survivors all over the country, but recently, she's focusing on starting a home for survivors in the Panhandle, a hotbed for human trafficking.

"I-10, as you've heard before, is the main corridor," Jones said.  "That really is, absolutely, the truth. Because what will happen is, the trafficker will come in, maybe it's one, maybe a group will come in, get off I-10, and you can be at a Pensacola beach relatively quick depending on traffic. They'll start their initial contact there."

Refuge for Women has homes across the country.  Because she's seen such a need here, Jones hopes soon, the Emerald Coast will have one, too.

"They need hope, and that's what we need to give them," Jones says of survivors in the area who need help.  "It doesn't matter if the house is going to be in Escambia County, Santa Rosa... Wherever.  We're going to service women from all over. It doesn't matter where you're coming from."

To learn more about Refuge for Women, including how to donate to the home in the works in the Panhandle, you can click here.

Mobile County

Baldwin County

Northwest Florida