By Caroline Vandergriff

DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – A safe house for young men who are victims of sex trafficking is set to open in North Texas.

Its founder says the Denton County home will be the first of its kind in the entire nation.

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Six to eight young men, ages 18 to 24, will be able to stay at Bob’s House of Hope.

They will receive counseling services, medical and dental care, vocational training, and mentorship.

“The reason it’s so important we get this house open is we have two individuals right now in off-site locations, that are in protective custody, that need a place to go,” said Bob Williams, the president and CEO of Bob’s House of Hope.

He said those two young men, one of whom is from North Texas, were exploited by sex traffickers.

When Bob’s House of Hope opens on June 1st, it will become their home, a safe place to get the help they need.

“This situation is very real and it’s an epidemic, and with COVID, it’s done nothing but gotten worse,” Williams said.

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Williams says many people only associate sex trafficking with young women.

“But the reality is, it also happens to boys,” he said. “The average age for boys who are targeted on the internet is 13.”

Williams first became aware of the growing problem through his nonprofit Ranch Hands Rescue, which pairs children who’ve gone through trauma with abused and rescued animals.

That kind of therapy will also play a role in the new safe house.

“Just being with these special needs animals is healing,” said Landon Dickeson, director of clinical services for Ranch Hands Rescue. “Just being with them and taking care of them is powerful, and that’s why this is going to work.”

The program will typically last two to three years.

“I often wonder, in my 30-year career, how many of these young men did I come across and didn’t recognize?” asked Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree. “How many of these young men did I have an opportunity to help but didn’t because I didn’t know any better? Didn’t think about that as an issue? That bothers me. That bothers me a great deal. Hopefully this is going to spread to other counties and other states, and across the nation.”

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Williams’ goal is to open another home for minor male victims, ages 13 to 17, next year.

Caroline Vandergriff