Cornerstone Community Outreach

1 May 2019

Unexpected Prayer Warrior

By |2019-05-01T09:59:13-05:00May 1st, 2019|General|0 Comments

You never know where a prayer warrior may be found!

I was out walking about Uptown doing a couple of errands when I noticed a friend of mine through the window of one of our neighborhoods classic grills. I waved at Kathy, and then I ventured into the restaurant to say hi. She was glad to see me. “I haven’t been able to make it to Cornerstone lately,” she said. “My husband’s health has taken a turn for the worse . . . so I’ve had to take care of him a lot more.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I responded.
“Yeah, things have been a little rough lately,” she said.
I then turned to her friend, who was sitting quietly across from Kathy.  “Hi, I’m Chris, from Cornerstone. What’s your name?”
“Hi, I’m Heather, nice to meet you,” she said.
We then got into a conversation and Heather told me that she’d lived in Uptown for about 7 years, but she didn’t go to church because of some health issues.  And she went on to tell me that we all need to be witnesses for Jesus.  And one of her ways of sharing her faith was to make crosses out of yarn and give them out for free.
“Wow, that’s really cool,” I said.
“‘Cause you know, we’re a part of the bride of Christ, and Jesus is the groom,” she continued.  “And Jesus wants us to be praying for all the folks we come in contact with. Jesus wants us to pray against the power of Satan. He wants us to ask Him to remove the problems that are in the person’s life we’re praying for. I know, because I’ve been a prayer warrior since I was 13.”
We chatted a little more, and then I told Heather and Kathy that I was blessed to talk with them, if only for a few minutes. And I continued to complete my errands.
You just never know when or where you might meet someone pretty special.  I guess you just have to have “ears” that can truly hear, and “eyes” that truly see.
And I’m not saying that I always do have those kind of ears and eyes.  Because I know I do not.
Thanks for stopping by.
26 Apr 2019

Fallout Shelter

By |2019-04-24T10:43:06-05:00April 26th, 2019|Book excerpts|0 Comments

There’s an old metal sign that hangs on the outside of our Sylvia building. It’s placed about five feet above our entrance door and about two feet to the left. It’s only about a foot square, so it doesn’t catch your eye when you walk in.

Indeed, I’d bet a good number of our workers, clients, and visitors have never even noticed it. It’s rusted, but still legible. It reads, “Fallout Shelter-Capacity 593.”

Those of us who are older (baby-boomers and beyond!) will remember what these signs signified. They broadcast the fact that our building—a large five-story, fortress-type structure—would open its’ doors to the public should we come under a nuclear attack. It was a place that people could escape to in hopes of surviving a nuclear blast.

Fallout is defined as, “The descent through the atmosphere of particles, often radioactive, stirred up by, or resulting from, a nuclear explosion.” And the term shelter is defined as, “that which covers or defends, a place of protection; a refuge.”

Thankfully, our building did not have to be used for those purposes. But I’m sure it was somewhat comforting to know that there was a building one could escape to should the “unthinkable” occur.

So what does this have to do with our present-day work of sheltering the homeless? A few ironic observations come to mind.

This building was never intended to actually “shelter” people on a regular, year-round basis. It was intended to be a place of employment for lower class folks in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. The shelter aspect of the building was to be used only in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Sylvia Center

Now, in the 21st century, this building is being used to shelter people on a regular, year-round basis. But there is a difference. Our present-day capacity as set by the city of Chicago is 340.

So how did this building go from being a profitable place of employment to an old, run-down structure that offers temporary shelter for those who are not “making it” in our society?

The answer is simple, but not really simple. I presume that a once thriving industrial business (Mechanical Servants) ran into supply and demand issues, which in turn affected their bottom-line. They went out of business, but the building remained. And it remained essentially vacant for a number of years.

Fast forward to 2001. This huge vacant factory building just happened to be on the market. It also happened to be right across from our original Cornerstone shelter on Clifton Ave.

Chicago’s homeless situation dictated the need for more shelters. Chicago’s Department of Human Services, our primary financial supporter, agreed. And so, with their backing, we purchased this building, which became the Sylvia Center.

But why had this dramatic change occurred? It wasn’t because there was an imminent threat of war. It was because a different type of bomb had been detonated. This bomb could be labeled economic, and its fallout had led to so many commonplace men and women becoming homeless. What’s more, it seemed that nobody could place the blame on any one person or any one entity for allowing this “bomb” to go off.

I mean, a lot of folks saw it coming. And there were so many from all sectors of society who raised their voices—who pleaded for common sense answers to avoid the crisis at hand—but their desperate cries fell on deaf ears.

So that is the story of how our building came to fulfill a variety of purposes. It was a prime source of employment for a few decades. And it was a building that could be counted on to shelter a lot of folks, should a nuclear war occur.

Sylvia Center

But now it’s simply a shelter from all the “bombs” that society can’t seem to stop from exploding all across the neighborhoods of Chicago.

One thing’s for sure: if the bombs keep going off at the current rate, I think we’ll ALL have to start looking to purchase additional, old factory buildings to deal with the increasing homeless fallout.

Of course, they don’t have to be old “factory” buildings. They could even be no-frills SRO (single room only) dwellings (with supportive services included). But a solution such as this makes too much sense. And there doesn’t seem to be very much of that around these days.

I mean, a solution such as this might even largely eliminate the need for shelters, such as ours. But I just happen to know that we wouldn’t mind being forced to “close our doors” if folks really were moved into a simple room to call their own, with wrap-around services and caseworkers to assist them.

However, I’m not going to hold my breath, waiting for this type of solution to become the norm.

I mean, just because we as a society have the means and capabilities of employing solutions such as these doesn’t necessarily mean we will “do the right thing.”



This is an excerpt from my book Jesus in the Least. You can buy it here or here. 

22 Feb 2019


By |2019-02-22T13:38:38-05:00February 22nd, 2019|Everyday People|0 Comments


I was walking along State St. when I ran into Kelly, a homeless woman, sitting on the sidewalk holding her sign asking for help. I stopped for a minute, and asked her how things were going, how people were treating her.

“Oh, it’s OK,”  she said. “I mean, it’s not like I’m some sort of monster, I’m just a human being who’s having a tough time right now.”

Kelly then went on to tell me that she used to be a medical billing assistant, and that she’d been married, and had her own home. But then in 2016, her husband passed away, and her life started spiraling downwards. Soon after, she couldn’t afford to stay in her home, so she started renting a room.

And then she went into such a deep depression that she couldn’t even keep a “room” over her head.  And then she told me that she was in and out of hospitals for a couple of years.

But now, right now, she was sitting on the State St. sidewalk in downtown Chicago, asking for a little mercy, a little charity, to help her make it through another day. She was hoping to get enough for a room or at least enough to eat, and ride the train all night.

“Do you believe in God?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I do pray, and it seems like God is the only person that I have right now.”
Kelly then gave me permission to pray for her. Now I’m asking you to say a prayer for Kelly.

And then I would ask you and myself to keep on praying for, and caring for the Kelly’s of our inner cities across America.

Thanks for stopping by.

Chris        .
11 Feb 2019


By |2019-02-22T13:38:47-05:00February 11th, 2019|Everyday People|0 Comments


Here’s my friend, Norville.  Every now and then we meet in the Aldi’s parking lot.  He’s busy waiting to return the shopping carts that folks have just used to unload their groceries into their cars.  But he’s also happy to assist anyone who would like a little help unloading.

So on this day, Feb. 6, I’d just finished shopping for our shelter–Cornerstone Community Outreach, and I’m pushing my fully loaded cart to my van when I run into Norville.  He’s quick to tell me that he’ll be right over to help me unload my cart as soon as he returns a few carts to their corrals, where he will receive a quarter for each cart.

When he arrives at our van we jump into a quick conversation.  “So you really like helping people, don’t you?” I ask

“Oh, yeah, I really like meeting people,” he says.  “I’m a people person.  And I just enjoy encouraging them,” he says.  “You know, there’s just a lot of good  people in this world.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” I say.

“I mean, I’ve met so many good people right here in the parking lot,” he says. ” I’m talking about so many folks that you wouldn’t expect to have an outstanding point of view and an understanding mentality. And they end up encouraging me.”

“Wow, that’s really nice, isn’t it?” I respond.

“Well you know, Chris, that’s what it’s all about, “he replies. “We just need to be encouraging each other each and every day.  I just figure that if I can’t encourage someone, then what am I good for?”

Norville finishes up helping me load our van, and we bid each other a good day. And I discover a little more about Jesus and how he works… right in the Aldi’s parking lot of Uptown, Chicago.  I’m just thankful for all the “Norvilles” in my life… because I can always use a little encouragement.

Thanks for stopping by.