In Houston, human trafficking is an issue that happens daily, but goes unnoticed by many. Whenever we hear about the latest police sting and the people arrested, do we take the time to think about what happens next for the victim.
Tracey Dudley is a woman who has lived on the streets, but now thanks to a local group called The Landing, she is helping others with similar experiences get their life back.
“I had a $20,000 a month cocaine habit,” Dudley said.
This was a habit that led her down a dark path for years, now she’s helping make a dent in human trafficking on the streets of Houston. To really comprehend how Tracy got to the point where she was working the streets, you must go back to the day she was born, that was also the day her mother abandoned her.
"She was a riot, she was heavily into drugs," Dudley said.
Dudley was raised by her grandmother, who couldn’t tell her no, and a step-grandfather that couldn’t give her what she needed: a voice.
“That produced a place in me that just stood up one day and said 'no, oh trust me, I'm going to find me a place,'” she said about her relationship with her grandparents.
That place was the streets of Houston.
At only 20-years-old, she had a name, a reputation and was on a seemingly never ending cycle of sex-for-drugs.
Her story takes an unexpected turn though when you ask her about faith. You see growing up, Dudley went to church, she prays now, just not in the way she did back then.
"I knew and believed enough in God that there were certain things that I would pray for on the streets and that was not for help," she said.
At this point this may not be the trafficking story you were expecting. The story of the girl that’s taken in broad daylight and forced in to the industry. Tracy wants you to know that girl exists, but there are so many just like her.
"It’s so important that people understand why someone who doesn't have a pimp, why would you certainly be in the life, you don't have someone making you."
Dudley eventually discovered The Landing, a drop-in center in the heart of the human sex-trafficking industry— a small stretch of Bissnonet Street, commonly refereed to as The Track. The organization accepts any and every woman seeking a place to take a nap, a hot meal, or a help with starting an entirely new life.
Dudley said her favorite thing to teach girls is how to flip their hustle.
"It's so true," she said. "There's stuff that I learned on the streets— man, nobody gave it to me and nobody can take it from me."
Sometimes, life can take away so much before you get the chance to give back. Something, Dudley now lives for everyday.