We’ll Leave The Light On…


We’ll Leave the Light on for You

by Sandy Ramsey, CCO Executive Director

“Sometimes I work late at my desk at the shelter. I can see the security monitor that shows who comes in and out of the door in our shelter foyer. You can see the flow of the foyer lights and through the glass door, the dark of night. It makes the foyer look inviting, welcoming, secure.

I think about the people coming in and going out. An older woman with a purse and several bags rests on the step before opening the door for the walk up a flight of stairs to her bed. She has come from her job, dressed up with make-up and earrings. No one would believe she’s homeless. Health and family problems have taken their toll and now she’s temporarily with us.

A man comes in late from his job. He looks tired. No one at work knows he’s homeless. Probably not a subject he discusses around the water cooler. Instead of coming home to his own house, family, and dog, he comes home to a large noisy shelter – not exactly something that builds a man’s self-esteem. But we’re grateful he has a bed with us.

Some people make faces into the camera while they wait to be buzzed in. Did they have a good day? Do they have a sense of humor despite their situation? Or a strong faith in God to get them through their homelessness?

Noisy children tumble out of the foyer door onto the street, followed by a weary parent, taking one last trip to the store before the evening curfew. Thinking of my own children, I wonder how I would fare if I was homeless with them. How would I explain to them, how would I maintain my own sense of family among so many others under one roof? What do the children think? Are they upset about losing the housing they have? What do they face when they go to school? Serious questions, but for now they are happy and I am thankful we can provide a place for them to be with their parents.

Another woman comes in for the night. Her whole life has been plagued by abuse and poverty. Her difficult childhood led to a troubled adult life, riddled with substance abuse and bad choices. Being chronically homeless and always needy, you’d have to look a little deeper to catch her funny personality and deeper strengths. She has been through our program several times and each times comes a little bit closer to making a turn for the better. Will this be the time she goes forward without looking back?

Another man goes out to begin the evening shift at his job. Someone else leans out the door and calls out last minute good-nights to a friend. Eventually the traffic in the foyer slows down as another day in the lives of homeless people in a homeless shelter comes to a close. Tomorrow there will be another chance, more choices, more hope. We will be there and we’ll leave the light on for you.

46th Ward Award for Best Non-Profit!

46 Ward Awards

CCO would like to say a huge “Thank You!” to everyone who voted for us to receive the 2015 46th Ward Award for Best Non-Profit. CCO received the award, presented by Alderman James Cappellman, earlier this week at the Uptown Underground.

Andrew Winter, CCO’s Chief Financial Officer was there to accept the award and say thank you on behalf of Cornerstone. Here is a copy of Andrew’s speech:

On behalf of Cornerstone Community Outreach, Sandy Ramsey our Executive Director, and all the staff who diligently work to make Cornerstone great, I’d like to thank the residents of our ward for choosing Cornerstone Community Outreach as Best Non-Profit. With your support, homeless families and individuals are receiving quality care and interim housing, and getting permanently housed. Someone who is homeless is in a very complicated time of their life, and we hope to understand each persons needs and meet them accordingly.I’d also like to thank all the non-profits and organizations, that collaborate in our ward and throughout the city, to meet the needs of those seeking assistance in our ward. Thank you, Chicago Department of Family Support Services for your work in coordinating these efforts, and also to Alderman Cappellman. If you would like to know more about Cornerstone, or make a wonderful donation, please feel free to talk to me!

Again, thank you very much!


Happy Father’s Day!

lydell - Copy

The staff, volunteers, and residents of CCO would like to wish you a very Happy Father’s Day! CCO is proud to welcome homeless father’s with children. Fathers often find it difficult to access shelter space because many shelters are designed for single adults, or women with children. It has been our privilege to assist dads with kids as they stabilize their families and work toward permanent housing.

Take a moment to visit Our Stories and scroll down to choose a success story featuring a father who has secured permanent housing for himself and his children. Pictured above is Lydell, a friend and former CCO resident, who worked against the odds to make a home for himself and Little Lydell (also pictured). Take a minute to read their story.

Happy Father’s Day! We hope you have a great weekend!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother's Day 2015

Since the mid-1980’s CCO has sheltered mothers with children. We are grateful for the privilege to shelter and serve homeless moms and kids. We’d like to say, Happy Mother’s Day, to all the mom’s sheltered at CCO and all the mom’s who support them.

Visit Our Stories and read about one of our successfully housed families.

Happy Mother’s Day!

236,600 Plates of Nutritious Food!

CCO Kitchen Prep

The 2013 Hunger and Homelessness Survey from the United States Conference of Mayors cited that 83% of cities had increased requests for food assistance and 91% reported that they had an increase in people asking for food assistance for the first time. This information confirms that many American’s experience food insecurity.

In 2014, CCO served over 236,600 plates of nutritious food and distributed over 7,500 bags of groceries. Be a part of CCO! Be a part of the fight against hunger!

Consider making a financial donation or volunteering today!

“Like” us on Facebook

Like us on Facebook

If you “like” us on Facebook you will begin getting CCO’s daily updates in your Facebook feed. Our posts focus on the good things that are happening at CCO. You will get up to date national homeless news and trends, CCO volunteer activities, special events, shelter guest success stories, and more.

If you already get our information on Facebook feel free to “share” or “comment” on what you find. Thanks!

Facebook like button image

Team CCO at the Shuffle Expo!

Team CCO -Andrew

Check out the Team CCO booth at the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K Expo! If you’re headed to the Expo don’t forget to stop by our booth and learn more about how Team CCO is helping to alleviate hunger and homelessness in Chicago!

The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k is this Sunday. It’s not too late to make a financial donation. Visit CrowdRise to choose a Team CCO runner and make a donation that will help alleviate homelessness and hunger in Chicago. Thank you!

Special thanks to nine3nine Creative for the awesome design and setup!

Sweet Baby Blankets!

Baby Blankets

CCO would like to say a special thank you to one our wonderful donors who has made beautiful baby blankets for the infants who stay at CCO with their families. Every blanket comes with a card. It is such as sweet and personal gift.

Families come to CCO with newborns often. Culturally, we don’t usually associate homelessness with infants but many our of shelter guests have babies while staying with us or come to CCO with newborns, toddlers, and children of all ages. Families who are homeless have special challenges and we are glad to meet those challenges with them.

Join us in providing safe shelter, nutritious meals, and compassionate case management services to homeless families. Consider making a donation today!

Thank you!

Hunger & Food Assistance

CCO Food Pantry

In the 1960’s John F. Kennedy brought the issue of hunger and poverty to the forefront of American politics. He did so by reestablishing the Food Stamp Program that had begun several decades before. This government subsidized program has gone through several changes since its inception. In 2008, the Food Stamp Program became known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program has assisted hungry families and individuals throughout America to purchase nutritious foods from participating stores. Food assistance is offered to people at or below the poverty line.

In recent years these vital programs have been significantly reduced. In 2013, the federal government reduced the SNAP program by 5%. This may seem like a small reduction, but studies conducted by Feed America and the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) reflect a significant number of families and individuals who visit food pantries in order to pay for necessities, such as, medication, transportation, school, and utilities. We have found this to be true among our pantry attendees at CCO.

Food assistance for many people is a homeless prevention program. Meaning that a growing number of folks need consistent on-going food assistance in order to pay rent or cover the very basics of life. CCO’s food pantry program is one of our longest running services. We are grateful to be a positive help to our neighbors in need. Our weekly pantry is filled with nutritious foods, including fresh produce, from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The pantry is entirely staffed by faithful, hard working volunteers, some of attended the pantry in past years.

The food items and work force are provided without charge but we do have utility and security expenses. Consider donating today! Be a part of the good things that are happening every day at CCO!

Thank you!

CeaseFire, Critical Violence Prevention


Treating the contagion of violence. — CeaseFire

CeaseFire, is a global organization that works to reduce or interrupt violence, focus on high-risk areas, and create change through building relationships. CCO has welcomed Cure Violence staff into our shelter. They’ve conducted workshops and talked individually with our shelter guests about violence prevention. Their work has had an outstanding and unparalleled impact on our shelter guests and our surrounding neighborhood.

Recently, we found out that Illinois funding for CeaseFire programs has stopped. This is a devastating blow to an organization who’s sole purpose is community safety, improvement, and support. Organizations like CeaseFire create healthier communities and safer neighborhoods through violence prevention.

CeaseFire began their first program in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. They witnessed at 67% drop in gun violence and deaths. The program was then duplicated in four more neighborhoods. In those neighborhoods gun violence was reduced by 42%. CeaseFire has been active in 18 Chicago neighborhoods. The loss of their funding will cripple peace keeping efforts in our neighborhoods and increase gun violence and death.

To learn more about CeaseFire go to their website by clicking here.

Find out more about their award-winning documentary, The Interrupters.

Gary Slutkin, M.D., Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois/ Chicago School of Public Health, is the original founder of CeaseFire. To learn more about his approach to violence watch his TedTalk, “Can Violence Be Cured?”

View CeaseFire testimonials here.