Topeka K. Sam sits on a plush purple sofa in the living room of an immaculate row house in the Bronx, ordaining all of the ladies in the room. Sam, a founder of Hope House, a residence for previously incarcerated women, points to her cofounder, Vanee Sykes. “She’s a Lady of Hope,” Sam says, then swivels and points at another woman who has just entered the room. “That’s another Lady of Hope.” And, apparently, so too is this reporter. “The Ladies of Hope is you, and it’s all of us,” she adds. “If you are a resource to women who are coming here, then you are a Lady of Hope, you know? It’s about all women empowering other women and providing them hope and opportunity.”
The idea of Hope House, Sam says, is that women coming out of prison have the deck stacked against them. “You gotta start with basic needs,” Sam says. “I can’t advocate for myself or feel that I’m powerful enough to go get a job if I don’t have somewhere to live and I don’t have food in my stomach.”
So many women who land in prison are victims of sexual abuse, Sykes says, and Hope House is a place where women can safely process their pain in order to move forward. “Any given night here, we’re hugging and we’re crying, [because] it’s a safe space,” Sykes adds, tearing up as she speaks. “And it’s not just a safe space where we can live, but it’s a safe space mentally. You know, where it’s OK for me to say that this has happened, and that there’s other women here who are not going to judge, but who are just going to say, ‘This is what worked for me’ or ‘This is how I got through this.’ And that’s what I love about being here.”
To read more of Adrienne Day's article, please click here.