“You can sell a drug once, you can sell a girl, 12, 15, 20 times a night,” said Ellen Winegear, Grounds for Justice manager. These are the words that resounded in Winegear’s heart to get involved in the fight against human trafficking where women are forced into a life of prostitution.
Grounds for Justice is not an average coffee shop. Everybody who works at the shop is a volunteer which allows 100 percent of the proceeds from the coffee (and other drinks) to go to helping women and children caught in human trafficking.
Walking into Grounds for Justice, a person can expect to be greeted with a warm welcome followed by the sweet aroma of coffee. Grounds for Justice provides comfortable seating for lounging on couches or sitting at the table. It provides a wide selection of coffee, tea and Italian sodas.
Vendors sell miscellaneous items, from cute clothing to home décor, so people can browse while waiting for their order.
Grounds for Justice celebrated its first anniversary on Feb. 14. It started as a fundraising outlet for Refuge of Light, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to create and maintain safe homes for girls ages 17 and under. While the girls are going through the program, Refuge of Light offers physical, mental and spiritual healing in a safe environment.
Since its founding, Grounds for Justice has raised enough funds to pay for the safe home. Now the store is raising more money for the girls to live, as well as the expenses of the two girls who live there.
The name Grounds for Justice was thought of by one of the founders. Justice was the name of the first girl who they were able to help and grounds stems from the grinding of coffee beans in order to make coffee.
“Not only do we want justice for the girls, but we want justice for the pimps. If we can stop the source, the problem disappears,” said Winegear.
Volunteer, Nikki Martinez further explains the need to help the pimps, “What happens when you don’t get all the weeds? They grow back. So you stop the weed at the source or they will continue to flourish every single year. Somehow if they can get that realization that this isn’t right so that the whole process then dies.”
People tend to think that slavery ended in the 1800s, but it still exists. According to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010 and 133 underage arrests for prostitution were made in Dallas during the 2011 Super Bowl.
“The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly,” then Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, told USA Today in 2011, “It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
According to Huffington Post, some pornography may explicitly state that all the people in the film are over 18 and have consented to being recorded, but that is not always the case. The girls in these films sometimes are trained to look and act older.
People often see movies, such as “Taken”, where a girl is put into human trafficking in France and successfully comes out unaffected. Movies like this cause people to feel that this crime happens only overseas. What people do not realize is that it is happening not only in large cities, but in East Texas. These girls have a difficult time getting past the trauma and need help doing so.
Due to Tyler’s location, this town has become a stomping ground for drugs, shortly following human trafficking. Many women become so desperate for a drug that they have to result in selling whatever they have for a “hit”, an opportunity to take the drug of their choice.
“It’s not always, ‘I’m going sell my child once for a hit’. It’s ‘I’m going sell my child for as many times as I can get a hit’,” Martinez said.
Often society views these women negatively or assumes through wrong choices that they put themselves in these situations.
“ [People] see that prostitution is a chosen lifestyle, but what 12 year old chooses that? When they have been doing it for so many years, that is all that they believe worth is and continue it,” says Winegear.
Not only is Grounds for Justice a place where money can go to a good cause, it is a place that desires to benefit the community.
“There are hurt people who come in. We’re not a huge, busy chain where people just go through and don’t have time to say ‘hi’ and that’s the cool thing that there’s enough people here that I can step out and give a hug and keep it flowing,” said Winegear. “You never know who is going to walk through that door and that’s the community part that my energy comes from. I love that. A lot of people don’t have people to talk to. We were created for community and everybody in this world is seeking some kind of community.”
Nikki Miller has been volunteering every chance she could get at Ground for Justice over the last year. Miller heard about human trafficking and felt it was too overwhelming for her to do anything about it until she heard about Grounds for Justice.
“A lot of times we think it has to be this glamorous story and have this crazy huge story. I think a lot of times it is in the nitty gritty details that no one sees that need to happen. It is just really cool to be involved in those small minute details,” said Miller.
Grounds for Justice is located at 2318 E 5th St., just down the street from TJC. It offers a 10 percent discount for teachers and students. It also provides free wifi and a comfortable atmosphere to get work done.
If a person would like to learn more about human trafficking, one could use the back computer room that is loaded with information and books that can be checked out. Grounds for Justice is also looking for college-age volunteers that are willing to work later hours. Having more volunteers would allow the store to stay open later than 5 p.m.
“We all have the same goal, which is to bring these girls into restoration and healing. The No. 1 thing we ask to raise awareness. Be a voice for these girls. A voice against darkness,” said Miller.