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The LifeGuard Group combating human trafficking with new safe house

Posted at 4:14 PM, Feb 15, 2022

MISSOULA — Only 1% of human trafficking victims are ever rescued. It's a statistic front and center on Missoula's LifeGuard Group. It's also a status quo they're working to eliminate.

Not only have LifeGuard founders Lowell and Tami Hochhalter organized searches for missing people and conducted trainings, but now they're adding a safe house.

The 40 acres, 9,000 square foot home in Western Montana will house about 6 women, a live-in house manager, and will include emergent rooms for when emergency situations arise. The Hochhalter’s anticipate it will be full as soon as they are ready to open.

“One of our survivors came onto the property just to look at it for the first time she stepped out of her car, tears filled her eyes and she said, ‘I feel such peace,'" said Tami Hochhalter. "And that's exactly what was our dream and our desire from the beginning.”

It is a place where survivors of human trafficking can come find peace and begin to think about their dreams. But most importantly it is a place where family is being redefined.

“And she told us ‘Lowell and Tami, you have got to make this a home,'" said Tami Hochhalter. "She said ‘for one thing, I don't know home. I don't know mom. I don't know Dad. My parents sold me into the life.'”

“People have asked you know ‘is this going to be secure?’ said Lowell Hochhalter. "The pimp promised them security. You know, I want them to experience peace and safety. I want them when they lay their heads down. That's not even a second thought.”

And it’s all in the details. As families or organizations have been “adopting” rooms and redecorating them, the thought at the center of it all is the survivors.

“When you walk into her bathroom if you look around the corner, her robe is standing right there hooked on the hook just waiting for her to come and put it on for the first time and wrap herself in that peace and security,” said Tami Hochhalter.

The women that come to the home, will have a holistic approach to recovering. With dance, horse riding, art, and exercise therapy on the property. All health issues, including mental and physical, will be covered by insurance, thanks to community partners.

But, for the Hochhalter’s their desire is that the property will be the first place these young women can call home. This means that some work is required, even if it goes against Lowell’s design expertise.

“If it takes a little bit of paint over some beautiful Montana logs, then so be it," said Lowell Hochhalter. "Then let's paint the logs.” 

The LifeGuard Group is always looking for financial donations. They are also in need of some items to finish stocking up the house, like dishes and hay for horses. You can donate here.