LITTLE ROCK -- You may not think human trafficking is a problem in Arkansas. But victim advocates say it is here, with even young girls getting trapped.
The organization known as PATH, or Partners Against Trafficking Humans, is on mission right now to open the state's first shelter in Little Rock for victims. It will actually do more than just provide a roof over their head; there is a range of support services on the table and the leader behind it knows first-hand how vital a link they can be.
Piles of carpet and debris fill this vacant Little Rock sanctuary.
"We were able to tear the cabinets out that needed to be taken out," Louise Allison says of some of recent fixing up-work at the church.
It's a place on the road to a recovery that goes well beyond the physical structure, and it's one Louise Allison knows well.
"It was from the age of 14 to 16, I was caught into a human trafficking lifestyle," Allison said.
Allison was caught in the sex trade as a teen runaway; she fell prey again after boarding school. A move to Little Rock and a church recovery program would ultimately change her life.
"I'm finally free to live the life that I was designed to live and I want these girls to be able to experience that," Allison said.
Allison now runs PATH, or Partners Against Trafficking Humans. She and volunteers are busy getting this old church ready for a shelter and more.
"They are going to have individual therapy, group counseling, life skills coaching, education, a lot of the girls have been out of school for awhile," Allison said.
It's a safe escape for human trafficking victims from situations like, "In Little Rock, there are girls who get in the wrong place at the wrong time or someone who believes they are getting a job interview or it's their big break in life and they fall prey to that," Allison describes.
It's a tale too good to be true and one Allison hopes ends here.
"So they can move forward and not have to fall prey to that again like I did," Allison said.
Allison hopes to have the first group of victims in the shelter, about ten of them, in the next three to four months. The plans call for about 60 clients at full renovation.
PATH depends on community support so they encourage anyone who wants to help out in this process to contact them. You can find more information about PATH by clicking here. You can also email them at email@example.com.
The group is having a volunteer work session this weekend on Saturday and they welcome folks to come by and help.
PATH was lucky enough to get the building for free from an anonymous donor.