Denise’s Story


“In my storage unit, I was too cold to rest. I wanted a place to lay my head down and just sleep. I’d wrap up in ten blankets, just trying to get warm.”

Denise seems to have an endless abundance of joy. She is a very petite woman in her late 50’s with bright eyes and a wide, welcoming smile that goes well with her upbeat personality. Denise’s past was filled with a solid and consistent work history. For 30 years she was employed with Illinois Bell. She began in 1979 working part-time in the mailroom and was promoted 12 times, working her way up to full-time Engineering Clerk. After taking early retirement from Illinois Bell and giving the funds to her son to pay for his college education, Denise found work as a secretary with a moving company. Eight years later that business relocated to Florida. Denise found herself unemployed and alone. Too young for social security benefits but old enough to experience age discrimination when looking for work, she didn’t know where to turn for help.

Finding a job proved difficult and she eventually lost her apartment. Denise had an outdoor storage space that measured about 10 feet by 10 feet located in an outdoor lot on the south side of Chicago. The space held all the items from the apartment she had lost and with nowhere else to turn, she moved into it. Without any heat at all and only a few flashlights for light, Denise said she prayed, read her Bible, and cried a river in that storage unit. Keeping clean was a real challenge and when she tried to wash up in local public bathrooms she endured looks and comments from people who seemed to fear or despise her. Her former life was utterly lost.

For three years and throughout notoriously harsh Chicago winters, Denise stayed in her storage unit. To escape the cold, she would often ride the Chicago Public Transit system. “I was so tired of riding the buses. So tired… but when I rode the buses no one ever robbed me. An angel must have been sitting beside me.” Throughout these years Denise kept her difficult circumstances hidden from her son who lived out of state.

This sweet, hard-working woman had been forced so far out on the margins that she couldn’t find her way back. This past January, in the deadly cold, Denise arrived at Cornerstone. Three years of surviving alone would lead us to believe that Denise would find living with the 74 other women sheltered at Naomi House nearly impossible. Not so! Denise soon began to encourage homeless women younger than her, giving words of wisdom, and helping to defuse tense situations.

During her time at the shelter, Denise felt that God told her, “I’m giving you the rope but it’s up to you to grab ahold and pull yourself up.” And she did just that. During her stay at CCO Denise got security guard training, earned her PERC (Permanent Employment Registration Card) card, and got full-time work as a security guard. Of Naomi House staff Denise says, “They really supported me. The case managers got to know me and took time with me. I felt that they respected me.”

For the last 8 months Denise has been working full-time as a security officer for a domestic violence shelter that serves women with children. She enjoys her work immensely. The day Denise moved into her apartment she shouted, “Lord, You have been too good to me!” and then sat down and cried tears of gratitude. We rejoice with Denise!
Denise’s story reflects a trend of age-related employment discrimination. Regardless of her impeccable work history and experience Denise struggled to find a job. The turning point in Denise’s story is when she arrived at CCO and began to climb out of the day-to-day survival situation she had sunk into. We have been blessed by her stay and applaud the employer that saw what we see in Denise – a lovely, enthusiastic, hard-working woman who simply needed a job.

– Denise Hardy, as told to Beth Nicholls

If you are a donor then you helped to provide safe shelter, nutritious meals, and intensive case management services to Denise and other CCO residents like her. Please consider giving again financially today. If you have not made a donation to CCO consider giving a gift that will help someone move from homelessness to permanent housing. Thank you!


Tommy’s Story…

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Tommy is an extremely unassuming and polite man! He is drug-free, alcohol-free and felony-free. He doesn’t want to bother anyone. He’s happy to quietly sit and I’ve never heard him complain! (I’m complaining for him) He just lives “day-by-day”, accepting his “homeless fate”. When he wandered into Cornerstone, he didn’t come yelling or demanding answers, he was just expecting CCO to be part of his journey, he was expecting CCO to be just another place to lay his weary bones! But, we had other plans, so we drew this information out of him…..

Click here to read Tommy’s story of hope in the midst of U.S. Veteran homelessness.

Leland House Computer Lab!

Leland Computer Lab

“They’re here! They’re here!” was the loud proclamation of three school-age children who live at Leland House. The children at Leland House are now able to do their homework on the newly installed computers. They were so excited they could hardly contain themselves. “Wow! Two new Apple computers and a printer!”, was another students reply when he saw the new computers & printer. Leland House provides permanent, supportive housing to 20 school-age children and their parents. The children can now come home and access these computers after school. Every Tuesday we have 3 Moody Bible Institute student volunteers who come and help tutor the children. Up until this time, they had been trying to use our very old computers that were barely functioning and  sometimes didn’t work at all.

Thanks to the generosity of The Barnabas Project this miracle of new computers has now blessed our after school room. The staff, volunteers and especially the families with school-age children are very grateful to receive these generous gifts. The computer lab will benefit and enhance the Leland House program and all its residents.
Leland House is CCO’s permanent, supportive housing program. Leland House provides 18 families with safe apartments and intensive, on-site case management services. Staff have been praying, hoping, and wishing for new computers. Now the children are better equipped to achieve their education goals. Moms and dads at the Leland House program also use the computers to search for job and  housing opportunities. They can now register online, search for job training and employment opportunities, create and post resumes, and search the web for other opportunities.
Thank you Barnabas Project for your compassion and kindness you have shown to the families at Leland House!

Team CCO Marathon Race Day Photos!

To help homeless families they ran through 29 Chicago neighborhoods; they were cheered on by over 1 million spectators and crossed the finish line after running 26.2 miles! So far they have raised over half of their fundraising goal, and have just under a month left to meet it. Congratulate them, and encourage them for their hard work by donating to the team.Thank you for your commitment to charitable fitness and the shelter guests at CCO! What an awesome team! Enjoy the photo album and look for more photo albums of the marathon soon!
To Donate Click here to be redirected to CrowdRise, our charity fitness donation platform.

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Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise

Homeless to Housed and Employed!

Congratulations Robert, Peaches, Patricia and family! The staff, volunteers, and residents of CCO never get weary of seeing CCO shelter guests proudly displaying their new apartment keys. Not only did the three pictured here get housed, they also obtained employment while being sheltered at CCO!

In 2013, 69% of CCO’s new shelter guests informed staff at intake that they had no income. For many homeless people CCO is the first step in a long climb out of homelessness and into stable housing. With no income these efforts can take additional time.

We are privileged to take these steps with our shelter guests and rejoice with them when employment, housing, and many other stabilizing milestones are reached. Good things are happening at CCO!

View our Success Photo Gallery on Facebook and take a moment to “like” our page while you’re there!

Join us in this vital work by donating today. Thank you!



Homelessness to Micro-housing


The micro-cottage is 144 square feet — 8 by 18 feet. – New York Times image


Creative and compassionate minds work to end homelessness for 29 people in Washington State. This is the first time micro-housing and rental subsidies has come together to solve homelessness. Click here to the New York Times article.

Homeless to Housed


In 2013, over 170 people moved into permanent housing from one of CCO’s shelter programs or through street outreach. We never get tired of seeing our former shelter guests showing off their apartment keys!

Consider donating today! Donors and volunteers are a vital part of the good that goes on at CCO. Thank you!

Essential Identification in 2013


Last year, we assisted 284 men, women and children get their birth certificates…

This is an essential part of anyone’s journey from homelessness to housed; and we’re happy to say, simply having this document ensured that many of our participants eventually moved into permanent housing.

Resolve to Fight Poverty

Hunger & Homelessness Awareness

This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. How will you resolve to fight poverty in your community? Join CCO or your local non-profit to fight hunger and homelessness. Your efforts count.

Click here to read a CCO success story.

Click here if you want to learn more about volunteering at CCO.

Click here if you would like to donate to the work of CCO.

Thank you!

Provide Shelter

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Providing shelter is important. This image reflects that truth. What you don’t see in this photo are the two people sleeping behind the plywood structure, one of them requiring a wheelchair for mobility. It shouldn’t be this way. Shelters are a critical part of breaking the chain of homelessness. You’re donations provide shelter. To donate to CCO click on the ‘Donate Now’ button on the right. Thank you!