At 18, Allessandra found herself desperate for a safe place she could call home. “I was walking the streets late at night going to and from work. I didn’t feel safe after a certain time but I had no choice,” remembers Allessandra, now 24 years old.
At risk of having to drop out of college and quit her job because of her living situation, Allessandra searched for opportunities that could assist her with a local, more secure home. Through the referral of her boyfriend (now husband), Shaque, she happened upon Center For Family Services’ Camden DREAMS, one of eleven Safe and Supportive Housing programs in our continuum of care.
“I was surprised by how lonely I was when I first moved into DREAMS,” recalls Allessandra, “but soon enough everyone became like a surrogate family; I truly built a family with the other youth and staff.”
Camden DREAMS provided Allessandra with a supportive apartment as well as local connections to housing, education, and employment resources. It also gave her a taste of independence.
“During my time at DREAMS, I met people from so many different walks of life. The program was such a blessing for me. It offered me stability and the opportunity to learn and grow.”
After 5 years living at Camden DREAMS, Allessandra was ready to move on. In January 2014, one day after their wedding, Allessandra and Shaque moved into their own apartment with their son Amar'e. What can often be a stressful time in one’s life went seamlessly for Allessandra and her growing family. “Moving out of DREAMS didn’t feel like jumping into a big ocean, we felt ready thanks to the staff who prepared us for the real world.”
Our highly-respected, trained staff serve as role models to the children in all of our safe and supportive housing programs; showing them the path to success through life skills training, budgeting, counseling, education, and so much more. Camden DREAMS Director, Dwayne Ingram, was just one of many that made an everlasting impression on Allessandra.
“Mr. Dwayne is my surrogate father. He is like a father figure to me. He always reminds me, and all the youth at DREAMS, of our accomplishments and to reflect on our successes. I am blessed to have him in my life.”
It was with the help of program staff that Allessandra and Shaque were able to secure financial assistance through Center For Family Services’ First Call for Help program, making it possible for them to move into their own place.
Since Allessandra first became involved with CFS she has grown into a bright young woman and wonderful mother, but an ambassador for the work we do in the community. "I have grown and prospered because of this organization and I want that for others."
“I am so appreciative and grateful for CFS and all their programs. I hope to stay and grow with Center For Family Services.”
Allessandra is a current graduate of Center For Family Services. She is working on her bachelor's degree from Burlington County College. And, she is giving back to the place that gave her so much hope and guidance. Over the past year, Allessandra has been serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Center For Family Services Head Start. She is focused on increasing literacy levels and ensuring children are kindergarten ready.