CENTRAL SOUTH DAKOTA — In the least likely of places, Lisa Heth found the place where she could finally provide refuge for human trafficking survivors.
What was formerly a run-down motel, is now a brightly decorated, long-term shelter for women and children — and the first of its kind in South Dakota.
The Pathfinder Center, which formally opened its doors early last week, has 13 bedrooms uniquely decorated by a variety of organizations and individuals who provided sponsorship.
One bedroom has a queen-sized canopy bed covered in a delicate, white-ruffled comforter, while another is brightly painted pink and yellow with affirmations written on the wall. And another bedroom, Heth designed herself, has hand-painted blue feathers outlining the ceiling.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Heth, executive director of the Pathfinder Center. “Every room is different, specifically for each woman’s various needs. What works for one may not work for everyone.”
The center is located in central South Dakota, but the specific city and location are being withheld from the public for the safety of the women.
Heth, who is executive director of Wiconi Wawokiya, has been working with trafficking and domestic violence victims for the past 25 years. Wiconi Wawokiya is a nonprofit victim services organization located on the Crow Creek Reservation in central South Dakota.
She first got the idea to open the center in 2015. A seemingly random phone call from a motel owner led Heth to the bank to ask for a loan to turn the motel into a shelter. Almost two years later, Heth is ready to open the shelter for services.
“These women should come into these rooms and feel the love that went into decorating them. To know that someone out there cares about them,” Heth said.
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