Charleston, South Carolina, Part I: The Guts of a City

Recent posts on willtravelwithkids have talked about the reality of sex trafficking, something the symptoms of which have become more and more apparent to me as we drive the streets in our own town or drive hours away to another city.  Our children see these signs and related, intertwined issues, when we travel  – drugged teenagers walking the streets at night, homelessness, vulnerable children in poverty living in a shack under a highway overpass in the city.  We travel and visit family for the cultural experience, the academic adventure, the rich historical offerings and the stunning natural vistas.  But we’re learning to travel with eyes open and ready to see and understand so much more.

The joy, the life and the reality of a city is its people.

One evening in Charleston we met one of those people.  A little bit loud and seemingly out of place, he was trying to engage some girls in a conversation that they clearly were not interested in.  We walked by and, observing the situation, my husband asked the girls if everything was okay and, in turn, engaged the gentleman in conversation.  He was polite and eager to interact with him and leave the girls buried in their cell phones.   As we had suspected, he was homeless and was ultimately looking for someone to offer him cash or food.  We don’t give cash, but we invited him to join us for dinner.  He obliged us with his presence and the opportunity to hear his story.

“I was in the Navy.  Look here’s my VA [veteran’s administration] ID card. . .  Just got out of jail today.  Got locked up for an open container. . .  I am homeless because I don’t have a home, but I do have places to stay – a friend’s couch or something.  The VA put me up for the next 30 days in a shelter, so I’m good. . .”

We had dinner at a little Greek restaurant on King Street.  He hadn’t eaten Greek before and ordered a Greek salad with chicken.  “I’d like meat!  Make sure there’s meat!” Before the middle-aged man left to meet his girlfriend (who had called him several times during dinner), we passed along the phone number of someone who could connect him to some help and resources if he needed anything.  As a local Charlestonian and chronically homeless, he was well connected to the city services.  Nevertheless, he was authentically and profusely grateful for our kindness and willingness to let him join our family, our children and my brother included, for dinner.  We also invited him to visit a local church we knew would be more than happy to welcome him in fellowship.  We all shook his hand before he went on his way.


P1070578We notice the tourists, the students, the foreigner, the business people, but we also notice the less desirable noticables – those sleeping on park benches or smoking teenagers congregated on street corners late at night.  These are all the people that make up the city – all people we can and should engage with to understand what the city is about and, ultimately, understand the people that are on God’s heart.  None of these are invisible to Him.

As the About Me page has said for years, “The more we travel and meet new people and places, the more we learn about our Creator and what is on His heart and mind.”  Three years on, I can say that our travels and multiple relocations have shaped our perspective and certainly shown us in very close and personal ways what is on the heart of God.  I have also found that we have to be open to seeing with His eyes, not just seeing through the eyes of the tour guide, yelp reviews or our camera view finder.

3 responses to “Charleston, South Carolina, Part I: The Guts of a City”

  1. Yes, thank you for sharing from your research! Aside from foster children, which you mention, in the United States a high percentage of teenage girls who runaway from home also become victims of sex trafficking. I haven’t heard specific statistics on military children being targeted, but I’m interested in hearing more about that if you have some articles you could share the links to in the comments section. When I started becoming more informed on this issue I was surprised to find, as you mention, most victims are middle class girls who are slowly targeted over time and brought into the system via coercion and blackmail. So complex and currently misunderstood by many Americans. That is changing, though!

  2. great post, but I since I have read an extensive amount of research on sex trafficking (close to 1,000 pages of research articles in preparation for a grant I was going to write for BE FREE Dayton) I want to point out that a huge number of people who are trafficked for sex are not homeless, in fact an alarmingly high number of them are foster children living in foster homes, which is why the government was calling for grants to quell the number of kids in protective custody who were actively being exploited). There is also a life cycle to trafficking. Most US citizens who are trafficked are initially trafficked out of their own homes and in the Dayton Ohio area 8 out of 10 girls are from middle income households. Traffickers use other girls (who are under their control) to recruit unsuspecting friends. Military chidren are at risk because they are frequently looking for new friends when they arrive in a new duty station. Appointments with Johns are made over the internet and through cell phones, so it’s not actually common for them to walk the streets until they are so drug addicted that they are “turned out”. The “high end merchandise”, those sweet clean cut looking kids (boys and girls are both trafficked) are not walking the streets – they are generally being tricked out of their own homes, sneaking out to appointments being coerced through blackmail or heroine.

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