(NEW YORK) — On Saturday, 20/20 is broadcasting the story of the Steed family breaking away from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the polygamous sect whose leader and prophet is Warren Jeffs. Without money or resources, the Steeds turned to Holding Out HELP, a non-governmental group that assists those seeking to leave polygamy.
The organization provides access to housing, food, clothing, counseling, mentoring, job training, education and referral services. It is one of very few organizations that specialize in helping members of polygamous communities.
Since Jeffs went to prison, the number of people coming to Holding Out HELP for help has quadrupled.
“We have entire families coming out, and many individuals. They aren’t equipped to deal with the outside world,” Holding Out HELP executive director Tonia Tewel said.
Most of the individuals who leave their polygamist community are lacking in education, job training, and basic life skills, according to Tewell. Because they are shunned if they decide to leave, they often have no one to turn to.
“They don’t know how to function in the real world,” Tewel said. “They don’t know how to make their own choices, because they have never had to face this. A lot of them don’t even have a high school education.”
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