Human sex trafficking: a frightening world of horrible crimes against young girls and it's happening right here in the Capital City.
"Most people are really surprised to learn that human trafficking exists here in the US and our city. People are genuinely shocked by that," explained Trafficking Hope co-founder Laura Domingue. "But I think that once they understand that is a need, they see what they can do to help and be a part of the solution."
Fortunately, part of that solution is also found here at home. After learning that Baton Rouge was among the worst cities for human trafficking, a local couple founded Trafficking Hope.
It began as an awareness mission, but over the past six years has grown into creating Hope House, the first safehouse for trafficking victims in Baton Rouge.
"People really have a heart for the hurting and they want to help in any way that they can," said Laura.
"It's been incredible to see, not only the outpouring of people's support but how they're really starting to get engaged," said Trafficking Hope's other founder Lee Domingue.
9News brought you the first exclusive look at Hope House back in August when the renovation of an old camp site in South Louisiana had just begun. Now, more than six months and 60,000 volunteer hours later, Hope House is just weeks away from opening its doors.
The refuge already has four victims waiting to move in.
"Hope House has the opportunity to be the finest facility in America. So we want to be, if we have an open bed, I don't care if the girl is from Washington, from California, from Nicaragua, from Canada. We're going to get that girl the support she needs," said Lee.
The rehabilitation program will last from 12 to 18 months and cover everything from medical care, psychological care and vocational training. This will be done by a combination of counselors, case workers, doctors and even legal experts, with most of those services volunteered.
Eventually, Hope House will open seven cabins on its campus, housing two girls each.
A long-term goal is to start an internship program to spread their mission around the world.
"We'll teach them care, service provision, government relations, how do you lobby and get laws passed in your state? How to do you deal and get coalitions and provide education as well," said Lee.
Hope House is still about five weeks away from opening up, and they still need volunteers to help out. All volunteers are vetted for safety reasons. If you're interested in getting involved, click here.
Trafficking Hope is also hosting a gala called Faces of Hope on April 20th. All proceeds will go towards awareness and Hope House.