FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Lisette Arsuaga 213-365-1906, ext. 118

August 31, 2009. From mid-1996 to early 1999, Sipi, an Indonesian woman now 58, was ensnared in modern day slavery. Sipi worked inhumane hours for little compensation at a private Los Angeles County residence. She could only taste the luxurious meals she prepared when her so-called employers were finished eating. Sipi had neither a space of her own nor freedom to come and go.

"All the time my heart was worried," she says.

This month, Sipi moved into an apartment that she could call her own. Her new home has plush carpet, brand new cabinets and appliances, and windows through which Sipi can see the sun. She has her own bathroom and bedroom. In her kitchen, she cooks whatever she wants—either Indonesian or American dishes—whenever she wants.

She says, "I love to come home from work and finish my food and clean up and sit down to watch TV. I don't have to be worried. No one can bother me. That is my own minute, my own time."

Sipi's home is at the new Alexandria House Apartments, a 16-unit supportive housing complex. Located in the mid-Wilshire district, the complex offers safe and affordable housing to people who are rebuilding their lives from poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, and, in Sipi's case, human trafficking.

During her servitude, she wrote several letters in secret asking her neighbors and the police for help. As questions arose, Sipi was put in jail for twenty days and faced deportation. But Sipi felt that she could not return to Indonesia. With no money and only the clothes on her back, she feared that people would not believe her story of slavery. 

A case manager at the non-profit Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) was alerted. CAST is a multi-cultural, human rights organization whose mission is to assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and to work toward ending all instances of such human rights violations. CAST specializes in providing services to and advocating for survivors of human trafficking. CAST obtained Sipi's release, helped her apply for a visa that allowed her stay in the US, and found her transitional housing at Good Shepherd Shelter and, later, with Alexandria House.

Today, Sipi is proud to have her apartment, a green card, and a steady job. Just as CAST and Alexandria House opened their doors for her, Sipi is ready to open her door to people in need. She mentions a survivor, who is currently staying in CAST's shelter, and says that the survivor, also an Indonesian woman, is welcome to stay with her until she has her own place.

Sipi says, "I'll give her a key when she's ready. I'm ready, but it's her choice. Thanks to CAST, we’ve learned that everybody has a choice."