This past week, my team had the incredible opportunity to meet and talk to Deacon Steve Przdpelski who is the director of an organization called The Franciscan Peacemakers. Deacon Przdpelski had been a deacon for over 20 years.
The organization has been around for over 20 years as well and was created due to an invitation from the Milwaukee Police Department to help women who are victims of human trafficking to avoid going to prison. It gives them an alternative pathway to incarceration.
Every morning, members of the organization are out on the streets where prostitution occurs on both the Northside and Southside of Milwaukee. Along with that, they offer a two year housing program for women who want to come out of human trafficking and overcome drug addictions. This program with the free housing lets the women focus on their trauma care and their treatments for their addictions.
The women are also able to join in a social enterprise called Gifts for the Journey where they make soaps, lotions, candles and more recently, jewelry. This gives the women a job to help them get back on their feet now that they are no longer part of the human trafficking system. It will help them to find another job later on because they will have work experience and support behind them. On top of being able to work and get paid for that work, half of the money that they make must be put into a savings account that way after their two years, they have money saved to help them when they need it. After the two years are up, the Peacemakers help the women get into a full-time job that way they do not return to the streets.
Deacon Przdpelski finds motivation to help these women because of one in particular. A woman that had come to the Peacemakers was doing well and had recovered from her addiction and was clean and her mental health was under control thanks to the medication she was taking, but surprisingly, in 2012, she took her own life. This led Deacon Przdpelski to work harder to do more for these women and to help them more.
This experience gave him the courage to come up with the two year housing program rather than only a temporary house to stay at for 90-120 days. This allows the women more time to heal and recover from their experiences.
The goal of the Franciscan Peacemakers is to help the women feel whole again and to heal. If you would like to help them with this goal, check out their website!
Also, check out our video interview with Deacon Przdpelski!