Cornerstone Helped Me

Ildevert, pictured here with Francke Moukiama, CCO staff member.

Ildevert, pictured here with Francke Moukiama, CCO staff member.

“To live under a dictator is like slavery. There is no justice. There is no peace. It is not a free country.” Over fifty years of living under a Congolese dictatorship was long enough for Ildevert Mboungou. In the Congo, Ildevert worked as a chef for the employees of a major oil company. When it was found out that he was a supporter of the Democratic party the dictatorship that ruled and mistreated the Congolese people for decades began to severely abuse him. Ildevert was forced to leave his employment, his home, and all he knew. He had to escape his homeland and flee to America.

“I flew directly to Chicago. I did not know anyone. I was alone and deeply sad. I was living in the el train station and a man approached me and spoke my language. He told me that he knew where I could get help and he brought me to CCO (Cornerstone Community Outreach). I don’t know who he was.” Homeless shelters do not exist in the Congo and Ildevert was not aware that help was available or how to find it. This kind stranger took him from being isolated and living outside, to CCO where he could find a sense of community, support, and help for the future.

“I came to CCO with only a plastic bag that held my Bible, documents, passport and coat. That is all I had but I was happy to find shelter. I met Franke, Andre and Jeremy and they made me feel welcome. I was able to have meals, clothes, showers, and a bed. I am no longer alone and outside. Coming to the shelter was extraordinary!”

Almost immediately, Ildevert told staff that he would like to volunteer in the kitchen. “Cornerstone helped me, I want to help Cornerstone.” His culinary skills have been put to good use and he does a magnificent job and among CCO’s shelter guests Ildevert has found friends. One friend helps him practice the english language and is a great source of encouragement.

Today, Ildevert’s time is filled and he does more than volunteer for CCO. He is taking a course at Truman College for English as a second-language. He has begun training to get a certificate in Food Service at Inspiration Corporation. He is an active volunteer at the Kolver Center for survivors of politically-sanctioned torture. We rejoiced with Ildevert when he received his political asylum certificate from the United States government. And we look forward to seeing great things from this humble, grateful and generous man. “I prayed and God remembered me and brought me up from my low place.”

Nearly 3 1/2 years has passed since Ildevert’s story was first posted. Ildevert’s entire family has joined him in Chicago. His children are enjoying a good education, Ildevert is employed and they have an apartment to call home. CCO is privileged to be part of Ildevert’s story and grateful experience his kindness and generosity of spirit. Refugees truly enrich our lives. 

– Ildevert Mboungou, as told to Beth Nicholls and translated by Francke Moukiama

 

 

Good Samaritan

Glenn James, Good SamaritanGlenn James, a homeless Boston man, found a backpack that contained $42,000 in cash and travelers checks. He immediately turned it in to police. Mr. James said, “even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny. I am extremely religious — God has always very well looked after me.”

Mr. James became homeless due to loss of employment. He suffers from an ear disorder that causes bouts of vertigo. His story has caught a lot of attention and concerned persons have started a fundraising page at GoFundMe.

Click here to read the full article.

Thank you, Mr. James, for showing character, integrity and breaking down false stereotypes about homeless people. You are a great example to us all!

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day and everyday at CCO we are honored to shelter and serve a small army of homeless veterans. We’ve rejoiced with the men and women who have worked tirelessly to secure housing. And our hope is that one day all the men and women who gave so much would be able to have a home to call their own. To read more about being a homeless vet in America click on the image below…

This image is from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

This image is from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

National Armed Forces Day

Homeless-Veteran-Sign1Today is National Armed Forces Day. All the staff, residents and volunteers at CCO would like to remember our homeless shelter guests who have served our country in the armed forces. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimate that 62,619 veterans are homeless on any given night. Let’s serve our brave men and women especially in their time of need.

I Decided To Stay

“When I got to the courthouse my lawyer informed me that the sheriff was coming and I was going to be arrested. They wanted to know if I was going to stay or run.

I decided to stay.”

LydellThe number of homeless fathers with children is increasing. It is our privilege to welcome dads with kids into CCO and help them achieve the success for themselves and their families. Take a few moments and read Lydell’s story here. Or take a look at the other success stories available in Our Story section on the right.

The changed lives you will read about would not be possible without your support. Thank you for donating today!

Chronically Homeless to Housed…

Mosaic

 

Years of sleeping under viaducts, in trains, abandoned buildings, homeless shelters, loading docks, in dumpsters, on couches of some compassionate friends and under the hazy starless Chicago sky are finally coming to an end!

Years of being surrounded by masses are also coming to an end; with the crowded drop-in centers and the never-ending lines for food, toilets and that thin mattress on the floor. The peaceful freedom of being alone and being able to choose what television station they wish to watch will now saturate their realities!

….and now that dream is turning into reality…..

Clarence, Reggie and Kenny have battled for self-sufficiency and independence for years; these men aren’t lazy bums, but a few fellas struggling and hustling to overcome the obstacles that are plopped right in front of them. These are men who don’t have the support network surrounding them, enabling them to rise above the things that have held them down. These 3 men are all in their fifties and have seen the “land of opportunity” become a mystifying mist. Because of bad credit, arrests, addictions and health woes, they have been pushed further and further into the miry clay that has trapped them.

Yet, on this blessed week, we are honored to watch their fortunes turn drastically, and for that, we are eternally thankful….

What makes me smile is that I’ve had the privilege of playing a small role in each of their stories of successful movement! I’ve seen the painful journeys each of these men have reluctantly traveled. I’ve witnessed all the blood, sweat and tears shed along the way.

In other words, we made it imperative and vitally important that Clarence, Reggie and Kenny weren’t ignored and forgotten for another 41 years! These 3 chronically homeless men remained focused in our radar…

I’m writing this today, because it’s cause to celebrate; when a chronically homeless man or woman finds a home to live in permanently, a miracle happens! Even though I believe that housing should be every person’s right, a dark reality remains; when someone struggles with homelessness for years, the task of finding permanent housing becomes almost insurmountable and they need the help and guidance of people who love and care for them! But today, these 3 men prove miracles are alive and well in Uptown! What these chronically homeless men received was, a bunch of love, support and guidance, and they found it right here at Cornerstone Community Outreach!

….and now they’re moving into their own apartments, where they’ll be able to relax in their own beds, watch their own TVs, bathe in their own tubs and choose their own food to eat!

To read the full post go to, Setting Prisoners Free.

A King In His Castle!

Eliud

 

Today we are congratulating Eliud! A former CCO resident, Eliud has been successfully (and happily) housed for over 4 months. He told us he feels like a king in his very own castle! Clearly, he’s overjoyed with his studio apartment and we are happy to have him stop by for a visit.

Your donation makes a world of difference for people who need temporary shelter to get back to on their feet. You can donate by clicking on the Donate Now button below.
DonateNow

Happy Father’s Day from CCO!

Father's Day Image

Happy Father’s Day from CCO! Take a few minutes and read Lydell’s story,

“I Decided to Stay!” Thanks!

I Decided To Stay

11:05am, December 4, 2002, he was born. Lydell Doss, III, arrived breach with his brown eyes wide open. It was beautiful to see his first movements and to hear his new born cries.

One day later I would be crying in disbelief. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) removed him from the hospital and he became a ward of the state. This action was due to the past drug abuse of Little Lydell’s mother and I. It hurt deeply. It was painful not to take my child home. I see now that God was setting me up for something greater.

My court date was set for December 13th at Children and Family Court. It was my opportunity to explain my desire to take care of Little Lydell. At the time, I had a warrant out for my arrest and I knew it was a risk for me to walk into a courthouse full of police officers and security guards. But I was determined and I knew I had to go and represent my baby boy. When I got to the courthouse my lawyer informed me that the sheriff was coming and I was going to be arrested. They wanted to know if I was going to stay or run. I decided to stay.

That day DCFS placed Little Lydell in his auntie’s custody and I was arrested and locked in Cook County Jail.

Life moved on and after I was released from jail I found myself once again in a losing battle with my drug addiction. By the summer of 2003 I was back on the streets and back into drugs. That winter I was still addicted. It made me think back to when I was selling drugs and eventually got hooked. And how, now, long after that I became homeless and started living in a vacant apartment, getting high and wasting time. I started to rethink my life. I began to really think about Little Lydell and the future and how I was going to take care of him. The thought of him did something to me. It was then that I decided I needed to go into a drug treatment program.

I made a call to my DCFS caseworker from Salvation Army’s Harbor Lights program and let her know I was in rehab. She was surprised; she did not know that I had been addicted to drugs. I explained to her that I had been using for years. I knew I had to be truthful, with her and with myself. God put it on my heart to make changes in my life. I attended Parenting, Anger Management and many other classes and groups to help me understand why I do what I do. I began walking down the road of self knowledge and that helped me to let go of the old issues and the old problems.

I prayed a lot for Little Lydell while I was in the program. And it was during this time that he was put in foster care. He was temporarily place with a loving woman. I was so grateful to find that she had a strong belief in God! She became the answer to my prayer and today she is Little Lydell’s godmother.

The staff members of Salvation Army were really helpful. They would go to court dates with me and testify to the changes they had seen in me throughout my time in treatment. I visited Little Lydell faithfully during my months at the Harbor Lights program. At first I was allowed to see him every 2 weeks then DCFS moved it up to once a week. Overtime we were awarded unsupervised visits and then overnight visits. My time with Little Lydell meant everything to me and my goal was to have him returned home to me.

In June of 2004 I completed my program requirement at Salvation Army and moved in with my mother and father. It was scary at first became I hadn’t been out on the streets in so long but I started going to church and to AA and NA meetings.

September 15, 2005 I was awarded full custody of Little Lydell! I could hardly sleep the night before. I was happy, ecstatic! God put a child with me. It was more than being a parent. Knowing Little Lydell looked to me as a father made me work harder to stay clean and sober. It made me work harder to be the man I needed to be for Lydell, myself and my family.

Lydell and I moved into Cornerstone Community Outreach on August 15, 2006. We got offers to live with family members until we got on our feet but I felt that God wanted to take me out of my comfort zone. It was my first time in a homeless shelter. When I moved in I spent a lot of time reading and trying to grow spiritually. Staff members were really helpful and tried to answer any questions I h