Woman assigned to work in Hawaii by a federal agency faces housing challenges

Woman assigned to work in Hawaii by a federal agency faces housing challenges
Updated: Aug. 15, 2018 at 7:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Brooke Lewis came to Hawaii from Arizona for a job with AmeriCorps, a federal agency like the Peace Corps, to help local non-profits.

"I was really excited that I got the job. It sound like a good fit," she said.

But once she got here, it wasn't as glamorous as she initially thought.

Lewis expected to work with youth of incarcerated parents for the RIPEN program which is run in partnership by the Pu'a Foundation and Atherton YMCA.

But before work started, she stayed at the Pu'a Foundation's Mercy House in Windward Oahu, a transitional home for women who've just left prison. Lewis says there were conflicts over cleaning and she left after feeling threatened by two of the residents.

"It was terrifying, really terrifying," Lewis said.

The YMCA put her up in a Waikiki hotel as AmeriCorps investigates the situation.

"I'm just trying to hang in there. I'm trying to go about it rationally," said Lewis through tears.

Toni Bissen, executive director of the Pu'a Foundation which manages the Mercy House showed Hawaii News Now inside the house and says Lewis' allegations are untrue.

"It truly saddens me. All of the allegations were 100 percent false. I investigated the matter personally and I take serious the care of my team," said Bissen.

While Lewis believes she's owed housing by AmeriCorp, the Pu'a Foundation says it allowed her to stay at the Mercy House as a courtesy.

According to the AmeriCorp VISTA web page, "AmeriCorps VISTA does not provide housing assistance. Specific AmeriCorps VISTA positions may offer housing benefits. "

"The work that we do at the Pu'a Foundation, our RIPEN project, Mercy House project is a place for healing and transformation and in fact we wanted her to be a part of this team," said Bissen.

Lewis accuses Bissen of lying. She says her hotel stay ends Friday. After that, the future is uncertain.

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