Teen Project, human trafficking 'safe haven' in Sylmar forced to close

For many years, the Teen Project/Freehab in Sylmar has served as a safe haven for human trafficking victims and substance abuse users. But on Monday morning, the center received the devastating news from the Los Angeles City Fire Department that the facility would have to shut down.

Arriving at the facility Monday morning, LAFD's Assistant Fire Chief Kristine Larson told the staff, "In 2020, this building was required to have sprinklers, and it does not have sprinklers; therefore, it is unsafe to be occupied for overnight use." 

The shelter's permit was pulled, and everyone was ordered to evacuate the building.

Installing a sprinkler system is expensive and can cost upwards of $200,000, money the nonprofit doesn't have. Bert Paras, Teen Project's CEO, said that they received the notice that they needed to put in the sprinklers on Friday.

The closure of The Teen Project is devastating news for Arielle Streber and Kelly Robinson, two women who say the center has changed their lives. 

"It's gonna be so hard, like some of us don't have a family; this is our family," said Robinson.  

Department of Healthcare Services officials are working to place the women who are being forced to leave in different programs. Unfortunately, some of the participants chose to leave without accepting new help. Paras said he's concerned.

"Those people, unfortunately, are gonna have a very hard time adjusting and may pay the ultimate price."

Meanwhile, the Teen Project is raising money on GoFundMe in an effort to stay open. Information on that fundraise can be found by tapping or clicking here.