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The Refuge lays off 75% of its workforce, suspends operations

The Bastrop-area center for young sex trafficking survivors has been at the center of controversy for several months.

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas — In an email to its supporters this week, The Refuge for DMST (domestic minor sex trafficking) announced it would be suspending all operations and laying off 75% of its workforce amid ongoing investigations.

This layoff brings the total job loss to 50. The Refuge also said it hopes to reopen eventually and rehire if these employees are still available.

"While we have held out hope that those in power would recognize our appropriate handling of the two episodes of employee misconduct, speak up on our behalf, and restore our license, they have remained silent as our cottages stand empty and our bank account dwindles," the email states.

In the wake of allegations, the youth have been removed from the Bastrop County facility as the investigation continues. It's been more than 130 days after reports surfaced that an entry-level employee had exploited youth in The Refuge's care, encouraging them to provide nude photos in exchange in exchange for illegal drugs.

"In the days and weeks to come, you can count on us to keep up our efforts to acquaint our elected leaders, our distracted regulators and other decision makers with the facts of the case," the email continues. "While our decision certainly feels like grim news, I can assure you that the board and I are deeply committed to the mission of The Refuge and view this as a temporary setback. We will continue to fight for the restoration of our license and resumption of our operations because the girls deserve it, our job-seeking employees deserve it, and our supporters like you deserve our best, ongoing effort."

A spokesperson for the center on Tuesday told KVUE that since the youth were removed from its care, The Refuge has been reorganizing its service model and undergoing training in preparation for getting its license back.

The Refuge has has also had to overhaul security after the Department of Family and Protective Services revealed its location, which was meant to be confidential to protect the victims.


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