Congratulations Carla!

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!

Seeds of Hope – CCO’s Rooftop Garden

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!

585 Found Shelter in 2021

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.