By Lillian Safa

Camden, NJ can be cold and lonely for homeless women. Nowhere to sleep at night. No place to eat. No way out of a life on the streets.

The Anna M. Sample House is a women’s shelter exists to help these women. With 93 beds, the shelter is suitable for single women and mothers with children.

Anna M. Sample House. Photo by Lillian Safa

Crystal Thomas, the Administrative Assistant at Anna Sample House, said the largest family that has ever came to stay was a mother along with her 10 children. There is a park area for the women’s shelter, they are able to watch their kids play basketball or play on the slides.

The shelter is referral based, in order to stay there the homeless women must have a referral from social services. The shelter has a per diem rate of $58 per night. There are different funders, such as Board of Social Services, Camden County Board of Social Services, Gloucester County Board of Social Services, and Atlantic County Board of Social Services sending women that need shelter to Anna Sample House.

“We do life skills inventories, we have case managers on site,” said Thomas. “So, they all have case managers that they can talk to if they are having a problem at all times.”

The shelter also has a program for mentally disabled woman, called Safe Haven is for the are on medication and are in a program for three to five days in the week. Some have extreme behaviors as well as integrated. These women also stay in a separate floor from the other programs. There is a total of three floors, each program has its own floor due to the very different situations that the women are in.

Pauline Rob, 56,  is from Blackwood, NJ. She has been living in Anna Sample House Woman’s Shelter for eight months.

“I’ve had crises for suicide, so they put you in a dual diagnosis thing,” said Rob. “Which I just needed for the depression because its drug and alcohol related, but that’s was my choice of suicide was my medication.”

Transitional Living program is different from Safe Heaven its’s a bit homier; they are allowed to cook their own food on stoves, and they are the only program that can cook, the others unfortunately cannot. One of the reasons this program is allowed to cook is because it’s a family based program and many of the women enjoy cooking for their children.

Alaina Roberts is a seven month pregnant woman from New Jersey, she is 23-years-old and has been staying at the woman’s shelter for six months now; Today was actually her last day at the shelter (Oct.21).

“They ask us to be here for six months before even starting to look for housing, so my six months was a journey,” said Roberts. “I have a case worker and she guides me through the day, like today she will help me move my stuff; she tells me you got to do what you got to do.”

In order to stay at Anna Sample House Women’s Shelter there are many rules and regulations that the families must follow.

“We encourage them to attend all of the workshops, like money smart, parenting classes. They cannot smoke in the facility and we also have a medication policy,” said Thomas. “We also have curfews for all ages.”

There are many volunteers such as Cathedral Kitchen who cater to the shelter. The women at the shelter can eat at any time, but have to provide their own lunch. Cam Care have done a couple of baby drives for the shelter, because the shelter is filled with a total of 39 children. Many churches volunteer to come to the shelter for bible study and prayers. Marie Claire also volunteers to help the shelter; they come in and fix these ladies’ hair, nails, and makeup in order to show them how they should look while going out to job interviews.

Roberts, the pregnant woman in the women’s shelter said “Its tough, but if you’re really determined you will do it. A lot of people come and leave within a day and they don’t want to be here, you see many people come and go. I have a lot of things from here, I’m leaving today with a whole bunch of stuff, they gave me almost three bags of baby stuff. When I came here I only had one suitcase, literally I have like 10 bags leaving today.”



An homeless woman sitting right outside of the women’s shelter in Camden, NJ. Photo by Lillian Safa