I know, I know school just got out. And we’re talking about Back to School already?! Yes we are.
During the 2021-2022 school year, CCO had an estimated 60 students enrolled in Chicago Public School. Now that they are going back to the classroom for in-person learning, our younger residents have many school needs. CPS wonderfully provides a box of school supplies for each child at CCO, however when it comes to Back to School that is just the tip of the iceberg. Kids need backpacks, lunchboxes, school uniforms or new clothes, new shoes, and miscellaneous supplies like calculators, extra markers and crayons.
So, CCO has started a GoFundMe and an Amazon Wish List for the Back to School needs of our student residents. Please consider a financial donation and/or donating school supplies to give young CCO residents a better chance of success in school. Thank you.
On June 10th, Amanda Learmond, resource manager for Cornerstone Community Outreach (CCO), had a conflict with three of her former clients. It wasn’t the usual type of resolution she is called upon to deal with on a daily basis at the shelter. No, she had three invitations to graduations from former clients of CCO.
The three families had been shelter guests at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all three families had been successfully housed. During their time at CCO, Amanda was each family’s case manager, working closely with them to overcome the barriers keeping them in homelessness. During that time they all formed a deep bond that continued after the families transitioned to permanent housing. Amanda worked closely with these families not just during their stay at CCO but in their new homes, visiting them and offering continued support.
“Even though I don’t have family in Chicago, with these families I feel like I have family in Chicago,” Amanda says. “I feel so honored that I was invited into these families’ lives. These parents and guardians inspire me in the way that they continuously create opportunities for their children in spite of their challenges.”
But with such a close connection with each family it was a hard decision to choose which graduation to attend. Jocelin was graduating from Kindergarten, Zion was graduating from 8th grade and Luis was graduating from high school. Each of these children had overcome great obstacles to finish their grades all while coming out of homelessness during a pandemic.
In the end Amanda was able to check in on all of them. “Even though I wasn’t able to watch each of them walk the stage, I was able to be with them to celebrate their accomplishment. My biggest dream is to watch Jocelin and Zion graduate from high school and Luis to graduate from college. I can’t wait to cheer for them then.”
Luis will attend college at National Louis University on a full scholarship to study business and then go on to complete a degree in civil engineering.
Amanda’s story is such a wonderful example of how when a family comes to CCO they become a part of the Cornerstone family and how we at Cornerstone become a part of theirs. Amanda said she is very grateful to everyone who contributed to make this experience possible, and encourages everyone to consider donating to Cornerstone to make more possibilities happen.
Click here to donate to keep these life changing experiences happening!
Click the images below to read the 2021 CCO Annual Report. In it, you’ll find exciting information about the good things happening every day at CCO. The graphic above shows that 104 households (192 individuals) moved out of CCO into their own homes in 2021! Now that’s cause for celebrating!
Please consider making a financial donation that would improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness. A $25 donation covers the cost of one person for 24 hours at one of CCO’s shelters. Your donation will provide safe shelter, nutritious meals, and wrap-around services to a person in need. Click here to support CCO’s mission to address homelessness, provide shelter, accept people, and help them find a home.
“People can have a respite from the fear and uncertainty of sleeping in their car, on the train, or outside. They can have a shower, meals, and a bed. More than that, they can have a renewed spirit and a renewed sense of hope.“ – Eve Haycock, Naomi Women’s Shelter Supervisor
Thirty additional beds have been added to Cornerstone’s Naomi Women Shelter for Women. These crucial beds, staff, and services will help bridge the gap between vulnerable women experiencing homelessness and safe, supportive shelter.
In 2021, 30% of women arriving at Naomi Women’s Shelter had lived on the street the night before. Eve Haycock, Naomi Women’s Shelter Supervisor, states that several women had been living for months in their cars while working part-time, minimum wage jobs. Without a secure place to sleep, eat, and recover from work, they were stuck in part-time positions, which lengthened and compounded their experience with homelessness. Fortunately, having safe shelter and wrap-around services has allowed many women to gain full-time employment, which increases the likelihood of getting stable housing.
Eve had also noticed that this group of new arrivals were often unwell, and some needed immediate medical care. One new shelter guest had been on the streets and suffering from cancer. Case managers and on-site Heartland Alliance Health medical professionals swiftly connected her with the Rush Hospital Oncology Department. Heartland Alliance Health has been a valuable partner in the effort to improve the health of CCO’s medically fragile shelter guests.
Thirty additional beds mean that 30 more women will have a raised quality of life, access to essential services, and a place to build relationships. In short, they will be allowed to live instead of simply surviving.
“The night before I came to CCO, I slept out on a park bench.” Take a moment and read Carla’s story from the CCO Archive.
We hope you will join Cornerstone in meeting the needs of vulnerable women. Please consider making a donation that allows CCO to establish a computer lab, purchase a new copier, and other essential and programmatic necessities. Or consider donating to help pay for shelter beds and supportive services.
From the CCO Archive: Carla’s story was originally published in September of 2013.
“The night before I came to CCO, I slept out on a park bench. I said I would never stay in a shelter. And what did God do? He put me right in a shelter and blessed me there.
I thought people in a shelter had to sleep on the floor. I was afraid that people would steal my stuff and that it would be dirty. I thought I would have to leave in the early morning and stay out all day. Naomi House has been totally different. I have a case manager, three meals a day, I didn’t have to sleep on the floor or leave during the day. It isn’t dirty. I’ve improved mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.”
“Recently, I got a housing call and I was told, ‘It’s a go! Start packing!’ I have a place and I’m so excited about my little apartment! It’s perfect for me. And it makes me think about how good God is!”
-Carla, as told to Beth Nicholls
It would be difficult to talk to Carla and miss her determination and gratitude. After months of hard work, Carla turned the key to her own apartment. She looks back on her experience at the Naomi Shelter for Women as a stepping stone to stable housing. It has been a joy to work alongside her! Congratulations Carla!
Carla came to Naomi Shelter for Women from a park bench. Many shelter guests are welcomed into CCO after sleeping in doorways, vehicles, city buses, trains, and other places not intended for human habitation. In 2021, 30% of shelter guests entering the Naomi Men or Women’s Shelter Programs were “sleeping rough” the night before. Sleeping outside diminishes the physical and mental health of people experiencing homelessness. It makes them vulnerable to sleep deprivation, hunger, and violence.
Please stand with Cornerstone by helping to provide safe shelter space and permanent housing for Chicagoans experiencing poverty and homelessness. Your donation will ensure that beds, meals, and wrap-around services that available to someone sleeping on the street tonight. Click here to donate today!
“Dear CCO Staff, Shelter Guests, Volunteers, and Supporters,
To say that I have enjoyed working at CCO would be such an understatement. It has been a thrill, anadventure, and a great ride. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Working at CCO with wonderful families and single people has made me a better person and I am thankful for each and every story I have been privileged to be a part of.
The CCO staff has worked tirelessly alongside me and I am grateful to them for their faithfulness to our important work. I could not have done this for over 30 years without them.
My successor as Executive Director will be Andrew Winter, who has been working alongside me for many years as Chief Financial Officer and has already been leading the way for the last couple of years. He has exhibited great capability and compassion, and I know he is up to the task.
I will miss CCO, the staff, and all our residents more than I can express. It is bittersweet to be retiring, but I am also excited about this new chapter in my life. Thank you for your support after all these years.”
CCO staff, shelter guests, volunteers, and supporters wish Sandy all the best as she embarks on the next phase of her life. She will be truly missed. Stay tuned for an upcoming tribute to Sandy and her many incredible years at CCO.
“Gardening feeds my soul, and I’m so happy to share it with others.” -Laura Thiessen, CCO Gardener
Long-time CCO volunteer Laura Thiessen had dreams of establishing a healing, fertile space that would benefit CCO shelter guests. In 2021, Laura’s vision of creating a tranquil, productive garden for shelter guests on the Hannah Shelter rooftop became a reality.
“I love to use gardening as a tool to connect with people. It’s an honor to bring gardening and green space to CCO’s shelter guests. Several women from the Naomi Shelter and myself planted calendula flowers this week. Even amidst the sleeping, winter-browned garden, the Naomi ladies were soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the outdoors. One Naomi guest had planted carrots in her garden bucket last year. We had so much fun digging them up, sharing them, and laughing at the different sizes. I believe that human interactions and garden spaces like this one can revive the soul, unite, and empower us. We can enjoy the outdoors, grow what herbs and produce we can, right where we are, and fellowship together. It’s a joy to see the happiness the garden brings to all ages. It awakens the wonder of nature and gives us a platform to grow seeds of hope!”
Along with delicious produce, vibrant and fun programs have grown from the rooftop garden project. Women at the Naomi Shelter have enjoyed learning how to make Herbs N Me Hand Cream with Laura. The hand cream is made from calendula flowers and other natural materials from the CCO Rooftop Garden.
Tuesday Tea is CCO’s weekly garden party (weather permitting). The casual gathering takes place in the CCO Garden on the Hannah Shelter roof. Women and children from the Hannah Shelter are welcome to join the Naomi Women, many of whom have planted and nurtured the garden. Delicious tea is brewed from the herbs found in the raised beds. Everyone joins in watering plants and picking produce that is ready to eat. Tuesday Tea is a time to celebrate the success of the rooftop garden project and enjoy the people and plants that occupy the space. The children join in on the gardening fun or play on the rooftop playground nearby.
“Grace,” a Naomi Women’s shelter guest, grew a tiny watermelon and enjoyed sharing it with everyone at Tuesday Tea. After taking a bite, she danced around the picnic table and sang, “I’m a farmer!” Grace danced for the sheer joy of nurturing and growing fruit that she could share with others. Recently, Grace moved from the Naomi Women’s program into her apartment, and she’s coming back to volunteer her time and energy into the garden.
Laura and the garden ladies have hopes for a produce booth at a local Chicago Farmers Market. Last year, the garden produced cucumbers, watermelon, butternut squash, sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, sunflowers, kale, lettuce, broccoli, basil, dill, fennel, calendula, lilacs, cosmos, and wildflowers. Laura is looking to the future and, with the help of CCO shelter guests, planting the seeds she carefully saved from last year. She hopes they will produce a beautiful and life-giving space that brings hope and recovery to those sheltered at CCO.
The garden and all its vibrant outcroppings would not be possible without the generous support of Gethsemane Gardens and Hearthstone Terrace, two local businesses that know the value of the natural world in healing and uniting people. Thank you! And thank you, Laura, for creating a space that teaches, restores, and revives!
Please consider donating to CCO today! Your gift will ensure safe shelter and supportive services for families and single adults experiencing homelessness. Click here to visit our Donation Page. Thank you!
“I can find a lot of clothes for my family at the Free Store. I don’t have to worry about going out and buying clothes while I’m homeless. I can always find something new and CCO has a good variety. That’s how I’m blessed by the Free Store.”
– Victoria, Mother, CCO shelter guest & Free Store patron
Imagine a store filled with clothes, shoes, coats, jackets, and household items. Now imagine that everything in that store is FREE! It’s not too good to be true. It is true! Since the 1990s, CCO has operated the Free Store to meet the basic clothing needs of shelter guests.
This humble service fills a real and critical need. Over 75% of CCO shelter guests report no income at intake. That means shopping on a half-price day at the local thrift store is not an option. Many households have children who arrive needing clothes for school or play. Parents or single adults often need professional clothing for employment interviews, training, or jobs. The Free Store is open to all CCO shelter guests regardless of circumstance or situation.
The CCO Free Store has dedicated volunteers that make sure the needs of shelter guests are their number one priority. They assist families and single adults with their individual needs. A family with a newborn baby can find warm clothes and blankets for their little one. A single adult can find the shoes they need for their new job. Parents can find school clothes, coats, and boots to ensure their kids are warm on the way to school.
We want to say a huge thank you to all who have donated new or gently-used items to CCO! Without your donations, CCO volunteers would not be able to keep the Free Store stocked, sorted, organized, and ready for the next round of “shoppers.”
Please consider scheduling a drop-off by calling the CCO Donation Center at 773-271-8163 ext. 35 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to print a donation receipt you can fill it out and bring it with you when you drop off your items. Click here if you would like to make a financial donation that would benefit CCO’s shelter guests.
CCO is grateful to provide safe shelter, nutritious meals, and supportive services to Chicagoans experiencing homelessness. With your help, Cornerstone welcomes families and single adults who were previously sleeping on the train, on a relative’s couch, in a car, in substandard or overcrowded conditions. People come to CCO from a variety of difficult situations. They all have one thing in common, a need for shelter and help finding housing.
CCO accepts families of all descriptions. Dads with children, moms with children, grandparents with grandchildren, three-generational families, parents with special needs adult children, and families with service animals have all found safe shelter. Single adults experiencing homelessness need safe shelter too. At Cornerstone, single men and women can find support and a sense of community that reduces the isolation often associated with homelessness. CCO shelter guests receive critical, personalized assistance from case managers who access supportive services and permanent housing.
CCO has kept its doors open throughout the COVID pandemic providing safe shelter and essential services. The staff has worked tirelessly to make sure the shelter facilities and all policies maximize safety for shelter guests. Services to CCO’s neighbors in need have continued, too.
Cornerstone shelter guests rely on your valuable support. Please consider donating today so Cornerstone can continue to welcome those experiencing homelessness tomorrow.
CCO would like to extend a huge Thank You to the friends and family of Larry Hope. They have made a $1,000 donation to provide a meal to CCO shelter guests catered by Urban Tables. In addition to that they have donated $2,000 to replace the damaged CCO stove. These monetary donations were given on Larry’s birthday, February 12. These gifts are intended to highlight Larry’s life story, a story of love and true transformation.
The following are the words of Heather Yutzy, Larry’s close friend for the last 30 years.
“The meals and the money for the stove that we are giving to Cornerstone is done in honor of Larry Hope. Larry was a man who lived and worked in Uptown for many decades.
I met Larry 30 years ago when he was volunteering at the Monday night meal for the neighborhood at Uptown Baptist Church. Larry and I served meals, cooked, and washed dishes side-by-side for many months before I realized he was homeless. At that time, he was living on the streets and largely staying in U-Haul trailers that were parked on a lot in Uptown.
Larry was bright, articulate, funny, and curious. He was always learning and asking great questions. He began going to church and was welcomed by the congregation. He was deeply loved. In the late 80s, I saw Larry’s life being transformed by the love of God. Real change happened in his life but things didn’t change quickly.
Larry obtained employment at the Salvation Army Tom Seay Center. He poured his loving care for others into the meals he prepared there. He obtained his GED, and later in life, excelled in college courses. Through his faith, Larry overcame addiction and eventually began to work full-time caring for those on the streets of Uptown. His transformation reflected his faith and he brought his experiences to the streets to help others with physical and spiritual needs.
Eventually, Larry met and began courting a woman in San Francisco. They married and settled there. Larry spent the final years of his life bringing his message of hope to the streets of San Francisco.
When Larry died, his family and friends were utterly devastated. His life was an example of radical change. He had blessed so many. The donation is in honor of Larry’s story and his journey of faith in Jesus. I truly hope it encourages and blesses others.”