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A survivor speaks to the crowd at Sanctuary Night's Seat at the Table event.

Sanctuary Night Uplifts Human Trafficking Survivors in Columbus

By Kate Bauer2021-11-04

CoverMyMeds is proud to support Sanctuary Night — a Franklinton nonprofit that uplifts women caught in cycles of prostitution in Columbus, Ohio. The organization recently held its annual fundraiser to support survivors of human trafficking, so we sat down with Executive Director Hannah Estabrook to learn more about their plans for 2022.

When you think nobody cares about you, it’s hard to care about yourself.

That sentiment was shared by a brave survivor at Sanctuary Night’s annual fundraiser, Seat at the Table, held on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at 400 West Rich in the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio.

Sanctuary Night is a nonprofit that uplifts women caught in cycles of prostitution in Franklinton. The organization began as a three-month pilot project in 2017 and has since evolved into a year-round Monday night drop-in center. It’s a place with warm meals, clean clothes, hygiene items and — most importantly — friendly faces.

It’s safe to say Sanctuary Night cares — a lot. That shared passion for the people of Franklinton inspired CoverMyMeds’ support of Seat at the Table.

A Franklin County program that challenges prejudices

One woman at Seat at the Table was Christy Boykin, who was featured in the organization’s recent documentary, “Stronger Than You Know.” Christy is a human trafficking survivor and a graduate of Columbus’s two-year CATCH Court program.

According to the Franklin County Municipal Court, CATCH — which stands for “Changing Actions to Change Habits” — exists to "break the cycle of abuse for victims of human trafficking, prostitution, and sexual exploitation by providing resources, community, and accountability."

Today, Christy serves as Sanctuary Night’s peer support specialist — the nonprofit’s first survivor employee. Working there, she said, is food for her soul: “I have the strength of a thousand women, and I can share that strength with every woman who walks through our door.”

I have the strength of a thousand women, and I can share that strength with every woman who walks through our door.

Christy Boykinpeer support specialist at Sanctuary Night

CATCH coordinator turned Sanctuary Night founder

Hannah Estabrook is a licensed professional clinical counselor who lives in Franklinton, and most recently worked at the Franklin County Municipal Court as coordinator of CATCH.

In that position, she noticed many women whom she’d counseled walking the streets of her neighborhood — specifically Sullivant Avenue. She quickly realized these women needed somewhere safe to go, albeit just for a night.

To make that happen, she partnered with Lower Lights Ministries to launch Sanctuary Night. Two years later in 2019, Hannah and the organization’s chief strategy officer, Heather Mohrman, decided to expand that program and purchase a building to enable its growth.

A symbolic destruction of painful memories

One of the goals of Seat at the Table was to raise money for Sanctuary Night’s new building, which is scheduled to open December 2021. Before the nonprofit took over, the space operated as a makeshift brothel — a place where sex work ran rampant on Sullivant Avenue.

From a geographical perspective, the site was a perfect fit for Sanctuary Night. But the structure itself had to come down.

“So many women we help had painful memories associated with that building,” Hannah said. “They were either trafficked there or arrested there — some pretty dark experiences. That’s partially why we decided to demolish it and start from scratch. It’s better that way for everyone.”

Sanctuary Night’s financial goal of Seat at the Table was to raise $55,000; they ended the event with almost $68,000. Along with funding the new building, that money will go toward hiring and training six part-time employees — all of whom are human trafficking survivors like Christy.

Support from organizations in Columbus

To help raise that money, many Columbus organizations donated products, gift packages and experiences for event attendees to bid on in a silent auction. Justin McIntosh, senior content manager at CoverMyMeds, serves on a Sanctuary Night committee and volunteered his time to help coordinate Seat at the Table.

"I heard about Sanctuary Night as part of CoverMyMeds’ efforts to engage and support the community, and I was immediately eager to get involved,” Justin said. “When we announced our company’s plans to move to Franklinton, we knew we wanted to give back to the neighborhood as an extension of our growth mindset, Be Selfless."

“Immediately after sitting down with Justin, I thought — oh, he’s going to be amazing,” said Hannah. “There’s something beautiful about wanting to call Franklinton home — whether in a residential or business capacity — so meeting people like him and connecting with companies like CoverMyMeds who care about the work we do is deeply meaningful.”

There’s something beautiful about wanting to call Franklinton home… connecting with companies like CoverMyMeds who care about the work we do is deeply meaningful.

Hannah Estabrookexecutive director at Sanctuary Night

To operate 24/7, Sanctuary Night needs volunteers

It’s easy to get involved with Sanctuary Night — and there are many ways to do so. From dropping off meals to donating clothes and helping with fundraising events, there’s plenty of work to go around.

Because volunteers are required to provide trauma-informed care, they must go through a formal training session — the next of which occurs Monday, Nov. 29. Visit the organization’s volunteer page to sign up.

“Right now, we see about 15 women every Monday night,” Hannah said. “As we hopefully expand to become a 24/7 operation in 2022, we’ll likely see at least 30 women per day — 30 women who are hungry, need to charge their phones or even just want to sit down and have a chat.”

To support Sanctuary Night, CoverMyMeds is planning a donation drive for essential items including underwear, socks and toothpaste. Contact Kate Bauer to get involved.

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