The founder of the local non-profit organization known as Women of Diversity Ministries remains behind bars after she was arrested earlier this month for embezzling donation money.
Brenda Hill was charged with 88 counts of monetary abuse with a bond of 250-thousand dollars. The dozens of people she housed were evicted and face homelessness. Today, they were able to get the rest of their belongings from their rooms inside the former Budgetel hotel complex in Bossier.
Former staff members of Women of Diversity said the property owner allowed the clients to get the rest of their items Tuesday morning since they were only given a few hours notice to leave when they were evicted due to safety concerns. Some of the women said the whole situation shocked them and many are left unsure about their futures.
“I’ve been on the streets half my life if not more,” said Isabella Desselle, Women of Diversity participant.
Desselle is originally from Ecuador and said she joined the Women of Diversity Ministries four months ago after suffering an abusive relationship in Bossier. She said she felt at home in the organization that’s website says it helps with recovery and addiction.
“I looked up to Brenda Hill as a mother figure in my life. I didn’t realize what she was doing. She had all of us blind sighted,” Desselle said.
Hill was arrested on August 31 on 88 counts of financial abuse. She has a criminal history of fraud and staff members said they were horrified to find out she was embezzling the money that was coming in for donations. Along with money that she charged hotel guests to stay at the complex.
More than 50 women in the program were then evicted due to safety hazards when the water was shut off because thousands of dollars were owed. People staying at the hotel as a guest were also told to leave. The women grabbed what they could carry from the rooms they lived in until recently.
“We couldn’t get all of our stuff because half of us didn’t know where we were going. Majority of the people went to homeless shelters and they’re still at homeless shelters today,” Desselle said.
Deselle said she’s found a house to move into with a few friends she met through the ministry.
A local pastor lends his hand by bringing a trailer to help transport the women’s belongings.
“It’s definitely been a total disaster so to speak. It’s been chaotic. They were here and thought things were going well and just behind the scenes things were not going well. All of sudden basically become homeless again. Just needing jobs and needing to restart. Anybody that can help, their in great need,” said Shane Nugent, Pastor of Cross Point Baptist Church.
Staff members said about 30 people were in the program as parolees so they were sent back to jail after the eviction. 27 face homelessness after this Friday when a fund runs out that’s set up through Bossier Sheriff’s Office and Hope Connections in Shreveport. The majority are now looking for jobs as they move forward.
The former staff members said it’s been difficult for them since they haven’t been paid in over a month. Hill now owes them thousands in payroll checks. Despite not receiving a paycheck anymore, one of staff members, Summer Jimenez said they’re train and feel obligated to help these women.
If you would like to help the former members of the Women of Diversity Ministries, Jimenez said you can call her at 318-519-4694.