Officials in the Chicago suburb of Elgin, Illinois gave resident Greg Schiller an ultimatum: stop providing shelter to the homeless, or we’ll condemn your house.
Schiller told Chicago’s NBC 5 that he began hosting “slumber parties” for homeless people to stay warm during the region’s frigid cold in December, and would give them food and warm drinks in his unfinished basement — but would not allow drugs or alcohol.
“I would stay up all night with them and give them coffee and stuff and feed them,” Schiller said.
He hosted similar shelters in his garage last summer, but had to stop after “EMTs were called to help a man with a heart condition.” He then decided to move the shelter to his basement — a move city officials say did not comply with “sleeping regulations” for 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 told NBC5 in a statement.
Schiller said police and other officials arrived at his house with a warrant, and declared his basement ceiling too low and its windows too high “to be an egress.”
“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,” Schiller said.
The city confirmed that they would “take additional enforcement action to compel the removal of the unlawful basement sleeping area” if Schiller did not comply.