Shelter Spotlight: Anna M. Sample House Complex
Giving Mothers and Families A Place to Call “Home” in Camden
Just a few blocks west of Camden’s Central Waterfront district stands Anna M. Sample House Complex, Volunteers of America Delaware Valley’s emergency shelter and transitional living facility for women, children and families experiencing homelessness. For more than 30 years, this facility has given vulnerable single women, single mothers and fathers with children and intact families a safe, supportive environment to address and overcome factors that may have contributed to their homelessness, while developing the new supports necessary for a second chance at a fulfilling, independent life.
The emergency shelter was originally established in 1988 in honor of Anna M. Sample – one of the most compassionate and dedicated modern philanthropists to walk the streets of Camden. A tireless champion for mothers, children, and families experiencing homelessness in the city, Ms. Sample believed all families were worthy of unconditional love and support, no matter what hardships they may face. She was catalyst for positive change in the Camden community – creating summer job programs for youth, spearheading the establishment of a Camden Campus for Camden County College, and so much more.
Today, what started as a singular shelter has grown into a 93-bed complex – with the addition of a 30-bed transitional living facility for women and families and a 19-bed Safe Haven program specifically for single women and pregnant mothers experiencing homelessness and substance use, mental health, and/or behavioral health disorders. Thanks to one of VOADV’s long-time supporters and referral sources, Camden’s Cooper Foundation, Safe Haven was recently upgraded with new floors, lighting, furniture, and appliances all for the benefit of clients and staff.
Born and raised in Camden, Maya Johnson serves as Program Manager at the Anna M. Sample House Complex. She is one of many passionate and professional staff at the program who keeps Ms. Sample’s mission close to heart and embodies her commitment to serve Camden families and youth.
“It is hard to describe the feeling of watching a mother completely turn her life around, often for the sake of her kids, and move on to a new home and brighter future,” Maya explains. “To be a part of that process, right here in the town I was born and raised in, is indescribable. As challenging as it can be, I cannot see myself working anywhere else.”
During her 10 years at Anna Sample, Maya has made a lasting impact in the lives of hundreds of vulnerable mothers, families, and children. Each day, she joins her colleagues in providing loving support, professional guidance, assistance in securing vital housing, treatment, education, and employment services, and providing the opportunities needed for residents’ recovery and reintegration back into the community.
Cindy Chapelle is one such resident. A Camden-native and “social butterfly,” Maya and the team at Anna Sample all agree that Cindy is “one of the most empathetic and caring individuals” they have ever met.
Unfortunately, Cindy’s reasons for entering Anna Sample are not unlike others. She and her son, Matthew, were forced into homelessness during Cindy’s long, arduous battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Cindy found herself no longer able to pay her medical bills while supporting herself, her son, and her father, who also suffered from cancer. Additionally, Cindy is also a survivor of domestic abuse – with one particularly tragic incident placing her in a seven-day long coma when she attempted to separate from her abuser.
“Although I have experienced a lot of trauma in my life, I do not to let it define me,” Cindy explains. “I still struggle with my PTSD, but the staff at Anna M. Sample House Complex have gone above and beyond to give me the support I need to stay positive. They welcomed me with open arms and gave me a community of support I desperately needed. Now, for what feels like the first time in my life, I am hopeful for the future.”
With the help of Maya and other Anna Sample staff, Cindy is looking forward to securing permanent housing, completing her PHD in child psychology at William Patterson and completing her newest endeavor – writing a book entitled, Life of Cin.
“I am so grateful for Anna Sample staff and VOADV – they saved my life. Now, I am on the road to recovery and I get to see my son every day. I do not know what the future will bring, but I know that I am in good hands here,” Cindy adds.
For more information about Anna M. Sample House Complex, including eligibility and contact information, please visit: https://www.voadv.org/family-shelters.