City Reprimands Man For Sheltering Homeless During Sub-Zero Conditions

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Greg Schiller sheltered homeless people in his basement, but city officials said the space doesn't meet regulations.

According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, approximately 700 homeless people in the United States die each year from exposure to freezing temperatures.

In spite of this statistic, a Chicago area man was told by city officials that he had to stop sheltering homeless individuals in his basement during dangerous frigid weather.

Greg Schiller, of Elgin, said he began letting a group of homeless people sleep in his unfinished basement last month during brutally cold nights, offering them food, warm beverages and a cot to sleep on while watching movies.

“I would stay up all night with them and give them coffee and stuff and feed them,” he said, adding that no drugs or alcohol were allowed inside his residence during the evening events.

Officials said the reasoning behind the decision has to do with the city's "sleeping regulations" as they relate to basements:

"While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community, Mr. Schiller’s house does not comply with codes and regulations that guard against potential dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate light and ventilation, and insufficient exits in the event of a fire," city spokesperson Molly Center said in a statement.

According to Schiller, authorities visited his home on Tuesday and after finding his basement lacking instructed him to remove the cots or face further action:

“They shut me down and said I have 24 hours to return my basement to storage and take down - I have several cots with sleeping bags for everybody – or they’ll condemn the house.”

The bitter cold will continue in the Chicago area until the weekend, when temperatures are expected rise from current single digits to the upper-20s.

Schiller said that while he does plan to stop hosting his slumber parties, he’s working to find other options for taking care of the homeless he now knows so well.

“Somebody’s going to die,” he said.