- Associated Press - Thursday, August 10, 2017

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - A refuge center for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence has opened in central South Dakota.

The Pathfinder Center is a long-term shelter for women and children that officially opened its doors last week. The specific city and location are being withheld from the public for the women’s safety, the Daily Republic reported .

Executive Director Lisa Heth said the center is the first of its kind in the state, with 13 bedrooms uniquely decorated to meet women’s various needs.

“These women should come into these rooms and feel the love that went into decorating them,” Heth said of the rooms, which were decorated by sponsors. “To know that someone out there cares about them.”

Heth is also the executive director of Wiconi Wawokiya, a nonprofit victim services organization on the Crow Creek Reservation. She has been working with victims of trafficking and domestic violence for 25 years, and initially thought of the idea to open a center in 2015.

In addition to housing, the center also will provide group activities, GED classes and a dedicated room for law enforcement interviews if the victims choose to report the trafficking.

Women who are accepted into the center must commit to staying a minimum of six months with the ideal stay being 12 to 18 months. When they’re ready to leave the center, women will be provided a resource book that offers information on churches or organizations that can assist victims with transitioning back to life outside the facility.

“We are trying to ensure these women can be successful outside the center,” Heth said.

Heth said she intends to work with the state’s more than 30 domestic violence shelters to provide a list of referrals for potential acceptance into her center.

“This should be where these women can find their place in life,” she said.


Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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