Surviving sex trafficking: 'There are other people out there like me'

CORVALLIS, Ore. - She was 17, homeless and on the road - the start of the really bad times for Jennifer Unangst.

"I ended up in a lifestyle of drug addiction, homelessness and sexual exploitation myself," she told KVAL News.

She knows firsthand the terror facing victims of human sex trafficking.

"Their lives are being threatened. Their families are being threatened. Some are being held completely captive in hotels," she said.

A faith-based shelter for sex trafficking victims became her path to recovery.

Now, Unangst wants to reach out with a new shelter for women called "House of En-Gedi."

"Currently there's no place for women over 18 to go that provides long-term housing," she explained.

Portland has a shelter for minors under 18. House of En-Gedi would be the first for women over 18.

Unangst wants to shelter 4 to 6 women as a start, with counseling, medical help and education for those who need to get their GED.

Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Detective Keith Bickford is leader of the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force. "If she can open up her doors, if she can work with the police departments, with special services - that's just going to help our job even more then it comes to combating trafficking throughout Oregon," he said.

Unangst's plan is for one-year recovery programs for women. Translators and counselors have already volunteered to help.

"I just can't sit back and do nothing," she said. "I know there are other people out there like me."