Meet married Canton couple Aaron and Kristen: parents of three children, holders of demanding full-time jobs and humble heroes.
Although if you ask Aaron and Kristen (their last name is being excluded for safety reasons), the real heroes are the women working to overcome the hardships of human trafficking whom they assist through their two-year-old non-profit Haven Homes of Detroit.
Earlier this year, the couple opened the doors of a Detroit home they purchased and completely renovated (with the help of an incredible team of collaborators) to a trio of woman who have survived harrowing episodes of sexual exploitation.
In addition to 18 to 24 months of rent-free housing, the Haven Homes of Detroit benefactors will be given access to physical and mental healthcare, sobriety care, legal support and educational opportunities or vocational placement.
Born to serve
The couple learned the rewarding benefits of compassion for others at an early age as both of their families were engaged in community-assisting lifestyles.
“In 2015, we became connected to Love Runs, a running ministry at Plymouth Township-based NorthRidge Church that works against human trafficking in metro Detroit,” Kristen explained. “I had a passion for helping the victims of human trafficking and felt Aaron and I should do something more.
“Aaron, who was involved in a street outreach program, developed this same vision. It took a while to get all the pieces to fall into place, but we were finally able to open our first home in Detroit in June.”
Juggling family, work and humanitarian demands can be tiring at times, they both admitted.
“There are a lot more days when we are exhausted than days we’re not,” Aaron said, smiling. “But we feel very strongly about what we’re doing and can’t imagine life any other way.”
Aaron and Kristen’s professional backgrounds mesh perfectly with Haven Homes of Detroit’s mission.
Both natives of the Midwest, Kristin earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing and has worked in the Mayo Clinic’s oncology and pediatric intensive care units.
Since the family moved to Michigan, she has worked with patients at University of Michigan’s Cancer Center, and currently serves as a director for sales strategy, communications and innovation for a pharmaceutical company.
Aaron’s professional background is equally impressive. He has worked as a program director at a children’s home, worked as a program coordinator for disabled adults and — a licensed builder — launched a renovation and home design business, Axe & Hammer.
All of his past experiences have served him well, he reiterated, as the executive director of HHD.
Helping survivors live stable lives
Along with renovating homes for the growing non-profit, he works with community and government services to build relations that will ultimately lead to better lives for the women his non-profit assists.
“Most people don’t understand how human trafficking works,” Aaron said. “A very small percentage of human-trafficking victims are kidnapped out of parking lots.
“Most of the victims are trafficked by family members, boyfriends … people who hook them in by giving them cellphones, getting them hooked on drugs. It’s difficult for the ones who do want to return to a normal life because there is no secure housing or basic resources for them.”
Aaron said the opening of the first Haven Homes of Detroit home is just the beginning of the non-profit’s journey.
“It is not inconceivable to think that we could open five to 10 more homes in Detroit,” he said. “The waiting list for homes like these is very, very long.”