Fred, Clara, and a Family of Six

Providing Shelter

Every week CCO shelter guests face new and unique challenges. We realize each person is different, and we try to assist each person with that in mind.

Fred just turned 84, he is a Korean War veteran who came to us without an ID or income, and he now has both, which has created a new chance to meet his next goal: permanent housing. Ray just returned from a stint in prison, so we’ll be attempting to help him get his documents, make his appointment, stay sober, get an income and eventually successfully move into housing. Kenneth is a Vietnam veteran, who was just evicted, but because of an ongoing mental illness, we are helping him by being his advocate, and supplying him with transportation and taking him to his appointments, making sure he’ll get into subsidized housing as soon as possible.

Even though there are many tear-jerking stories rising out of CCO, we cannot forget the countless stories of hope. Dawson came to us from prison and without an income, and after a year of faithfully keeping his appointments, he left us with an income and permanent housing. Tommy, a Vietnam veteran, came to us after being homeless for 30 long years; he now receives benefits and has moved into permanent supportive housing. Due to some health issues, Clara struggled to stay employed and therefore ended up homeless, she came to us, found another job and eventually moved into her own apartment a couple weeks ago.

The stories never end at CCO, on Friday a newly homeless 18 year old male entered our doors, followed by a couple with 4 young children, only to be followed by a fragile 70 year old lady, assisted by a walker. Each and every one of them is unique and needs to be assisted in different ways; whether it’s getting a job, receiving a pension, attending daycare or starting training. In a world that, at times, seems void of hope, our goal is to offer them fresh hope, an ability to move forward and let each person know how important they truly are.

Providing safe shelter, nutritious meals, and compassionate case management services is important in the lives of the families and individuals we serve. Please consider donating today!

  • Jeremy Nicholls

Denise’s Story

Denise

“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!

Denise

Tommy’s Story…

Maked and using for LenSlider 462d096575 banner. Dont delete from media library.

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.

Stepping Stones to Success!

cta main

Here are a few of the ways CCO residents got help in January….
We assisted 27 people in getting their birth certificates from a range of different States. Birth certificates and important ID are the stepping stones to the services that are available to homeless families and individuals. It’s nearly impossible to get anything done without identification.


We helped 3 families with rental assistance, so they could either stay housed or successfully move into housing. We also helped another 2 guys get some household items. If they hadn’t gotten this assistance they would have moved into completely empty apartments. Now they can settle into their new place and make it a home.


We also assisted 8 people with transit cards, because they got employed and couldn’t get to their new jobs (we helped them until they get paid and can afford their own). Another 2 people needed work boots and one lady needed help getting a uniform.

All of the assistance mentioned above has been part of the stepping stones that allow our shelter guests to find and sustain stability and permanent housing. We are grateful to be a small part of their success. You can continue to be a part of the good things that are happening at CCO. Considering volunteering your time or making a financial donation.

Thank you!

Homeless to Housed : Elizabeth’s Story

 

I found a sweatshirt that says, “Cornerstone University.”  I said, “I’m going to graduate from this school with honors!”

I found a sweatshirt that says, “Cornerstone University.” I said, “I’m going to graduate from this school with honors!”

Homelessness does not discriminate between genders, ages, ethnicities, levels of education, or other demographics. At CCO, it has been our privilege to shelter newborns with their families, elderly persons, people with developmental disabilities, those with master’s degrees, adults who have worked full-time their entire lives and some with no work history at all. Anyone can become homeless.
Elizabeth’s story challenges the norms of who we believe can become homeless in America. It breaks down the fences that divide the “haves” and the “have nots”.
“My father was a very hardworking man. He owned a construction company and he instilled a strong work ethic in me. Growing up I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have what we needed.
After getting my master’s degree in finance, I worked full-time as a financial advisor in the Loop. My husband, Doug, was a stock analyst who worked at the Chicago Board of Trade. I have memories of being downtown at work and homeless people would ask me for change. I wasn’t thinking about the person in front of me. I was thinking about what I was going to have for lunch, who was going to pick-up the dry cleaning, and when I had to be at my next meeting.
I had always lived in the Chicago suburbs. My husband and I had a beautiful home with our sweet daughter. We often had barbeques with neighbors. That’s the sort of life we lived.
After 15 years of building our lives together and of living the American Dream, my husband Doug suddenly and tragically lost his life. We had had a good marriage. We had higher education and great jobs. I couldn’t have stopped what happened to Doug, but for some reason I blamed myself. The loss was unbelievable and shocking. I felt a part of me died with him.
At the funeral someone gave me a drink and I remember feeling numb. That’s what I wanted to feel. Heavy with grief, I just wanted to feel nothing at all.
I quickly became a functioning alcoholic. These were very dark times. I remember going to an AA meeting. A woman was talking about her husband. She said that he was dying and she was so depressed she couldn’t stop drinking. Her story spoke to me and that’s when I realized I needed help. She’s my sponsor to this day and we are very close. I also got intensive residential treatment. It was unbelievably hard physically and emotionally, but I stuck with it. The 12 steps are an important part of my life. People say it’s about making amends and forgiving others, but I think it’s mostly about forgiving yourself.
In 2008, the recession hit and my company lost 30% of our clients. In 2009, the company closed. I was unemployed and the money was running out. I sold my house and moved to Chicago. I wanted to make sure that my daughter had money for her education. That was very important to me. My unemployment eventually ran out and I began to sell everything I had in storage: furniture, household items, everything.
I was frantically looking for work all over the city. Employers kept saying, “You’re overqualified. We can’t pay you what you’re worth.” I just wanted to work. I believe part of the problem was my age. I just kept being rejected and turned away. And I didn’t have anything left to sell and I became homeless.
I found shelter at CCO’s Naomi House program for single women. The staff made me feel welcome and showed me around, but those first few days and nights were tough. I couldn’t believe I was in a shelter. I felt like the biggest failure. I had gone from full-time employment with a home in the suburbs to homelessness. I had never been homeless before. I was scared and I just wanted to hide but I couldn’t. I started to send out 50 resumes a day. I used every computer I could get my hands on.
I was working hard to keep my hopes up and attending AA meetings. CCO has a Free Store where residents and neighbors can “shop” for necessary clothes and household items. One day I was searching the Free Store for cold weather clothes and I found a sweatshirt that says, “Cornerstone University.” I ran downstairs to the Naomi House office and showed it to staff and said, “I’m going to graduate from this school with honors!” Everyone believed me and we had a good laugh!
Soon after that, Sandy Ramsey, CCO’s Executive Director, called me into her office. I couldn’t figure out what I was getting in trouble for. Instead of getting in trouble she offered me an employment position at CCO. I was so surprised!
Now, I am working in the Naomi House program that I had lived in myself. I work as an evening and night staff person. Women living in Naomi House have a lot of needs. When I’m at work, I feel like I’m a psychiatrist, a lawyer, a referee, an officer, a financial advisor, you name it!
I really feel like CCO saved my life. Not just because I got shelter when I was homeless, but because I was given hope, purpose, and employment, too.”
-Elizabeth Hartline, as told to Beth Nicholls

Veteran Success After 30 Years Homeless

Success
In early 2013, Tommy, a senior citizen and Vietnam Veteran, wandered into our place. He’d been homeless for 30 years! Yes, that’s not a misprint; Tommy had been homeless in Chicago for 30 long years. For 30 long years, he’d been rotating in and out shelters and uninhabitable places! He lives in this massive city, without income and without health insurance! For 30 years, Tommy had been an invisible man in the hustle and bustle of never-ending crowds!

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…..

And upon hearing this American tragedy, we knew we had to be the answer. We also knew it rested upon our shoulders to help turn his tale of despair into a story of hope!

This is a little shout-out to a couple of my fellow case-managers (Andre and Franck); through some amazing displays of dedication and love, Tommy’s story has changed! Tommy trusts us! Tommy knows we care! Tommy needed direction in trying to navigate through a complicated system that is wrapped in a lot of “red tape”. Tommy needed people to advocate for him. He needed people willing to do a lot of leg work for him. Results started happening when we personally took him to the Veterans Administration, Social Security and other places. Results started happening when we became his voice and made a bunch of phone calls on his behalf! Tommy is now getting helped medically by the VA and he’s on the tedious path toward finally getting the financial assistance he deserves.

We didn’t just say, “Hey Tommy: Do this; GO”. We went with him! We spoke for him! We made sure he was seen! We made sure Tommy was “invisible-no-more”! Through these efforts, Tommy got his HUD VASH (Veterans Administration Supportive Housing) voucher.

Tommy’s tragic tale has resurrected into a source of hope!
After his long and tedious journey, Tommy successfully moved into his own apartment in early 2014! He is now getting the support, medical care and financial assistance he earned and deserves.

-Jeremy Nicholls, CCO Men’s Program Supervisor

Veterans Day last year was just another night in a shelter for Tommy. Through compassionate support and intensive case management, Tommy has now been housed in his own apartment for nearly two year!

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.

BACM14 - CopyBACM14 2 - CopyBACM14 3 - CopyBACM14 4 - CopyBACM14 5 - CopyBACM14 6 - CopyBACM14 7 - CopyBACM14 8 - CopyBACM14 10 - CopyBACM14 12 - CopyBACM14 13 - CopyBACM14 14 - CopyBACM14 15 - CopyBACM14 16 - CopyBACM14 17 - CopyBACM14 18 - CopyBACM14 19 - CopyBACM14 20 - CopyBACM14 21 - CopyBACM14 22 - Copyjoel Team CCO - Copy
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!

 

 

Encouraging Words

CCO Awning

“I lived here in 2002, they help get my life back on track when I became homeless and needed a helping hand. This is a wonderful organization who really gives back to the homeless!!!!”

-Victoria

Thanks for the kind words, Victoria! It is our privilege to know you and everyone who comes through our doors. All the best!

Homeless to Housed!

Robert Success

Great job, Robert! It’s good to see you with your new apartment keys. Congratulations!

CCO’s Shelter for Men provides bed space for 65 men each night. During the day men in the shelter program are offered intensive case management services, meals, on-site medical and mental health services, and a variety of services that meet the complex needs of each individual. Our goal is always stable, permanent housing.  And it is our privilege to see our shelter guests move from homeless to housed! Join us in our efforts to provide safe, beneficial shelter. Donate Today!