Hope House NYC is an initiative of The Ladies of Hope Ministries. We empower women by providing a safe housing space, a supportive community of women, mentorship and guidance for formerly incarcerated women to successfully re-enter life after prison.
Hope House NYC was created by Topeka K. Sam and Vanee Sykes, both formerly incarcerated women who met while in Danbury Federal Prison in 2013. Hope House NYC is for single women who have experienced incarceration and are returning to New York City. Housing is available to women for up to one year as they readjust to seeing their families, being in their communities, healing themselves and seeking employment and educational opportunities. At the conclusion of the year, our plan is for women to move into permanent housing, while retaining their connection to Hope House NYC for support.
Hope House includes live-in support in a homelike setting with light- filled bedrooms, a large gathering area, and a communal kitchen. We collaborate with community based organizations that will benefit the women of Hope House NYC.
Our goal is for each woman to create an independent, successful and happy life where they can thrive and become whole.
Topeka K. Sam
While in Federal Prison, Topeka K. Sam witnessed first hand the epidemic and disparity of incarceration on women but most specifically women of color. She felt the urgency to bring the faces and voices of women in prison to the public in order to bring awareness to women’s incarceration and post-incarceration issues in order to help change the criminal legal system. In February 2016 she created the first of now 11 symposiums, Real Women Real Voices, “Where the People Meet the Policy” which focused on incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, the children of incarcerated parents and the carceral state. This symposium sparked a wave of panels and discussions surrounding women in the criminal legal system around the country.
Ms. Sam is the founder and executive director of The Ladies of Hope Ministries – The LOHM – whose mission is to help disenfranchised and marginalized women and girls transition back into society through spiritual empowerment, education, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. She is also the founder of HOPE HOUSE NYC – a safe housing space for women and girls recently released from prison. Topeka serves on the board of directors for Grassroots Leadership. She is a Beyond the Bars 2015 Fellow and a 2016 Justice-In-Education Scholar at Columbia University, a 2017 Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow working on Probation and Parole Accountability and a member of The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
January 8, 2018: Topeka K. Sam is hosting a weekly show Last Mile, Second Chances on Sirius XM UrbanView Chanel 126 on Sundays at 9am EST. For your free 30-day trial with SiriusXM click: https://streaming.siriusxm.com
December 11, 2018: Topeka K. Sam was awarded $50,000 from a fund begun by singer, songwriter, musician, and actor John Legend. Read John Legend Funds Formerly Incarcerated Entrepreneurs through Unlocked Futures program.
October 27, 2017: TEDxMidAtlantic talk by Topeka K. Sam.
August 10, 2017: Topeka Sam and Senator Cory Booker, Bustle, Pregnant Inmates Are Still Being Shackled, Handcuffed, & Restrained During Childbirth. Article and video.
July 18, 2017: Participated in Women Unshackled, a forum hosted by the Justice Action Network and the Brennan Center for Justice at the Newseum in Washington D.C. featuring experts on female incarceration, former inmates, and several politicians, including Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. Additionally, she has consulted with Senator Cory Booker on the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act.
July 13, 2017: Topeka K. Sam, It’s Time to Overhaul America’s Broken Probation and Parole Systems, Op-ed.
In November 2011, Vanee was sentenced to 63 months in Federal Prison. As a mother of three children, it was during this time that the plight of incarcerated woman and their children took center stage in her life. As founder of Red Tag Ministries: “Ministering through the Racks” whose mission is to provide formerly incarcerated ladies with garments to transcend back into the workplace, she learned of this need firsthand while ministering to ladies inside of prison. Vanee, along with her daughter Alexis, are launching “Lexi’s Promise: The ultimate prom experience for a “Princess” with an incarcerated parent.” They are committed to Making Dreams Come True One Prom Dress at a Time. Vanee Sykes holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from American College of Applied Arts, Atlanta GA; a Paralegal Certificate from Blackstone CareerInstitute, Allentown, PA; and has over 20 years of experience working in the City of New York government.
Shawnda Chapman Brown – Research and Data Strategist
Shawnda Chapman Brown works as a Research and Data Strategist for the Ladies of Hope Ministries, Hope House NYC and the Parole and Probation Accountability Project (PPAC). Previously as a research analyst at the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance, Shawnda supported research on the Equality Indicators project, which measures and tracks changes in inequality in NYC.
Prior to joining the CUNY Institute, she spent several years working as a research assistant and field agent with the Social Justice Sexuality Initiative at the CUNY Graduate Center. Partially based on her own experiences, her academic work has focused on racial justice and examining the ways in which youth of color get pushed into the criminal justice system. She has also conducted research on understanding the determinants of educational attainment for black girls.
Jamila Diaz – Strategic Advisor
Ms. Diaz holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with minors in Sociology and Economics from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is a Soro’s Leadership Fellows alumni and holds a Certificate in Business Management from Fairfield University. Jamila Diaz approaches each new business challenge with an intrinsic flair for innovation, creative problem-solving and measured risk-taking to drive consistent bottom-line improvements and returns. She is known in the industry as a leader that has helped SoBRO to deepen market penetration and create tailored customer solutions. Her experience as Assistant Vice President managing the organization’s business assistance and commercial revitalization services, including the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program, Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) Program for all five Bronx IBZs, and merchant organizing have netted the organization millions of program funding and a strong reputation of true community collaboration. Prior to her position with SOBRO, Jamila worked as a Program Coordinator at Neighborhood Solutions for Women (NSFW) where she was charged with managing all aspects of the organization’s operations and assisting with program development. The program had a 90% success rate of non-recidivism.
Dorcia Kelley – Interior Stylist
A seasoned Image Architect, Dorcia Kelley is a purveyor of international culture and style.
With her sartorial elegance and keen eye, Kelley brings fourteen years of know-how to interiors, fashion, and gracious living. Her deft skill and top to bottom approach encompasses lifestyle branding product development, editorial styling, and photo direction. An intuitive rock star, she anticipates and surpasses her clients’ needs by elevating their brand identity’s look, feel, and capacity. Kelley achieves this by engaging global influences and a rich sense of luxury.
Client List: Renaissance Hotels, ELLE Magazine, NIKE, Essence Magazine, Lancome Paris, Two’s Company, Real Simple Magazine, ELLE Decor, Two’s Company, Vicente Wolf Associates.
Donna M. Davis – Communications & Grant Advisor
Ms. Davis has served in leadership positions in some of New York City’s premier nonprofit organizations in fundraising development, nonprofit communications, and marketing. As an expert in the New York City nonprofit community, Donna is known for her strong collaborative relationships that help fundraise and “brand raise” for programs and services that positively impact New York City. She continues to assist a variety of organizations and initiatives including Unite Women New York (board member), the Universal Hip Hop Museum (advisor), International Association of Fashion Stylists, National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives (Board of Governors), and North Carolina Central University (Motivational Taskforce).