Letter from the Executive Director

Executive Director Sandra Ramsey

Dear Friends:

Another year has flown by and the staff at Cornerstone have had a front row seat to so many victories and successes! We get to witness the relief on people’s faces when they finally secure keys to their home once again, or for some, for the first time ever. We experience firsthand the joy of someone getting a job because they know that is a major step in securing their housing. Being able to secure birth certificates and IDs helps each person feel like they exist and are important in this world.

We witness the strength and tenacity of our residents time and time again and wonder how we would do if we were experiencing homelessness ourselves. We look forward to this year of 2017 with even higher hopes and greater anticipation of the many families and individuals we will meet, hearing their stories, and helping them move forward with their goals.

Our mission at CCO is to help people recover from the hardships of homelessness with dignity while helping them restore their God-given worth and self-esteem.

Sincerely,

Sandra Ramsey

2,920 Visits to the Free Store

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Free Store

2,920 Visits to the Free Store

“A lot of people who visit the Free Store come from dire circumstances. They often don’t have enough clothes, maybe just a few things in a bag. Or they come to CCO with nothing. We’ve had lots of fire victims, people fleeing bad situations, or folks living on the streets, who only have what they could carry. They are welcome to come and get what they need.”
– Harmony Canfield, Free Store Supervisor

Donated clothes and household items are displayed in the CCO Free Store. Once there, shelter guests and our neighbors are able to choose clothing essentials. The Free Store is truly a vital service to our shelter guests who arrive at CCO with no money or income. It is a blessing to families, single adults, and our neighbors in need.


Thank you for celebrating a few of CCO’s wonderful successes from 2016! In 2017, we hope you continue to be a part of the fabulous things happening in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. Please consider making a generous donation today!

48 Employed!

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48 Employed!

Improving Through Employment

“Never ever give up. No matter how bad things are. I came to Chicago and I didn’t know anybody. I found shelter at Cornerstone and never gave up. If you’re homeless right now, don’t give up!”
– Katie, obtained employment and housing while sheltered at CCO

In 2016, 48 CCO shelter guests found employment! The effort and determination needed to secure a job while homeless cannot be overstated. We are proud of each and every person who obtained employment. CCO was privileged to help with training, transportation, and uniform costs for many who were in the process of job training or who found work.

Some outstanding shelter guests were given employment at CCO. Of CCO’s 50 employees, 30 have experienced homelessness and have moved from homelessness to housing through one of CCO’s shelter programs. We are proud to say 60% of CCO’s employees have ‘lived experience’ and can bring these insights, compassion, and understanding to their work. They fill critical roles such as case managers, security guards, maintenance staff, chefs, janitorial workers, programs assistants, and evening staff.


We celebrate each of our shelter guests who obtained employment in 2016. Thank you for joining us in celebration. In 2017, we hope you continue to be a part of the fabulous things happening in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. Please consider donating today.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not fearing any man.”

– Memphis, April 3, 1968, the day before King’s death

Hunger Awareness Month

Hunger Slider - Copy“For now I ask no more than the justice of eating.”
— Pablo Neruda, Chilean Poet, Nobel Prize Winner

Join CCO in the fight against hunger in Chicago, where 1 in 6 people experience hunger and food insecurity. What is food insecurity? It’s when a person does not know whether they will be able to eat their next meal or meals because of lack of money.

At CCO, we are committed to offering nutritious meals to the hundreds of families and individuals who are sheltered with us. Food is a critical element in stabilizing a person’s health so that they are able to attend school, begin to recover from trauma, complete job training, access housing, and care for themselves and their family. In addition to our shelter guests, the CCO Food Pantry offers groceries to over 150 households each week.

Please consider making a donation to CCO today that will benefit those we serve and help them along the road to wellness. Click here to visit our donation page.

Can’t donate at this time? You can get involved by volunteering your time at CCO. We truly couldn’t fight poverty in Chicago without an army of valuable volunteers working alongside us. Serving meals, taking out the trash, cleaning, planting flowers, doing dishes, many hands make light work. Click here to visit our volunteer page.

Would you like to donate goods? Our CCO Free Store offers clothing and household items free of charge to everyone sheltered with us and many of our neighbors in need. The majority of the families and individuals who come to CCO for the first time have no income. Free clothing and shoes are necessary essentials. Gently-used items can be dropped off at 4628 N. Clifton Avenue in Chicago.

Are you an amateur athlete? CCO’s charitable fitness group, Team CCO, offers a fundraising avenue for those would like to run, walk, or climb their way to a better world. Click here to see what charitable fitness options are available to you.

Do you have a creative idea that will help people experiencing homelessness? Feel free to contact us at info@ccolife.org to make an inquiry.

Surviving on the Winter Streets

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Safe shelter is important. We are privileged to offer safe shelter, nutritious meals, and intensive services to each person we shelter. Our Outreach Program assists those on the streets and bring many in from the cold.
Here are some words from Archie, a friend, who lived on the streets in Chicago. This is his advice for surviving on the winter streets.

“First, you have to find a lot of blankets; at least 5 or 6, but 10 or 12 would be better. Try to keep them dry. Put on all your clothes, one layer on top of another. Find a place where the wind isn’t blowing too much, like a spot against a wall. Look for a hospital with warm air vents. And if it’s raining or snowing put some cardboard under you and get some shelter over you, like an awning or overhanging. Find some more people trying to survive, because you’ll stay warmer together. Take off your wet socks and anything else that’s wet or else you’ll freeze or get frostbite. Wrap up in all your blankets and put some over your head. You don’t worry about breathing because you’re so cold. The trick is to keep the air out.

If you get a transit pass, your best bet is to ride the train. Try to find someone else to ride with you so one of you can sleep and one of you can watch your stuff. Keep your stuff on the inside seat and sit next to it. Get off the train before the end of the line so they don’t know you’re homeless or they’ll kick you off the next time you get on. Try to go unnoticed and switch trains so you can ride all night. It sounds crazy, I know, but you can do it, even when it’s below zero outside. You can make it.”
– Archie

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day 2014Every day at CCO, we are privileged to see mothers persevering against the odds, diligently working to secure housing and moving closer to a better life for their families.

On this special holiday, please consider making a financial donation that will help moms and their families get one step closer to a stable home. Join us as we provide safe shelter, nutritious meals and critical case management services to over 65 mothers living on our programs. Thank you!