ATLANTA, Ga. — Outside the Atlanta city limits, near Stone Mountain Park, lies a tranquil eight-acre estate with a ranch-style home that has access to walking trails. Over the years, the home has fallen into disrepair and the trails are overgrown.
Members from Knights of Columbus Thomas O’Reilly Council 4358 have been traveling out to the property after Sunday Masses to give the home a fresh coat of paint, to repair old walls and build new ones, to fix the plumbing and refurnish the house.
They aren’t flipping the house for resale. Instead they are turning it into a place of refuge for sex-trafficking victims.
“This is a place where young ladies are going to be taken and find some peace of mind, some counseling, recover their sense of self-worth and get help,” said Joel Peddle, chancellor of Council 4358.
The Knights are working with Out of Darkness, the organization that purchased the property, and the Freedom Now Movement. Both groups are dedicated to rescuing sex-trafficking victims, the latter of which was founded by Peddle’s nephew. More than 20 Knights and their families have gone to the property to renovate the home, which is now called the Safe House.
“We show up with our hammers, crowbars, electric drills, work boots and knee pads,” Peddle said. “[We say] let’s go to this room, we need teams here. And team by team, we go do something. …You see guys working and without complaint, with joy in their hearts.”
The house is especially needed in the Atlanta metro area. The city ranks among the top U.S. cities for human trafficking, with more than $260 million going into the industry in a five year span. In 2018 alone, 375 cases were reported in Georgia. The U.S. ranks in the top three worst countries for human trafficking along with Mexico and the Philippines, according to the U.S. State Department.
“This is a national epidemic,” Peddle said. “It’s not just Georgia and I’m ashamed Georgia has this.
Peddle and members of the Council 4358 see their involvement in repairing the house as a “no-brainer” and emblematic of the Knights of Columbus’ pro-life mission of defending the most vulnerable.
“It’s like the unborn,” Peddle said. “They’re all very vulnerable. And there are vicious men mostly, women I guess, who want to exploit [young women]. I think this is a moral imperative of the first rank.”
The council’s goal is to have the home renovated and operational by the fall. Their involvement in the initiative won’t stop there. Out of Darkness has asked the Knights to be involved long after the Safe House’s opening with not only maintaining the home, but also providing financial support.
“Right now, we’re all hands on deck and that’s ― of course — one thing the Knights are good at,” Peddle said.
That sense of chivalry and fraternity is why Peddle joined the Knights after he converted to the faith.
“You’re a gentleman, a gentleman who’s Catholic, and that’s what the Knights are,” Peddle said. “The gentlemen Catholics who are every much of man as Achilles and every much as beautiful as a lamb and the heart of Christ.”
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