Homelessness

Chicago Suburb Cracks Down on Man Trying to Provide Shelter for Homeless

Officials threatened to condemn his home if he didn't stop.

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Greg Schiller wanted to help homeless people in his area, so last winter he opened up his garage to them as a place to sleep during cold nights. Then an EMT informed him that he wasn't allowed to house people in his garage.

So this winter, Schiller decided to throw "slumber parties" in his basement during cold nights, offering food, beverages, cots, and movies. Schiller said he didn't permit drugs or alcohol in his residence.

The government of Elgin, Illinois, where Schiller lives, didn't like this idea either.

Police officers and city officials showed up at Schiller's home with a warrant Tuesday and inspected the unfinished basement. They then claimed its ceiling was too low and its windows were too high and too small to exit through them. According to Schiller, they told him to shut down his operation and turn his basement back into storage within 24 hours or they would condemn the house.

"While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community," city spokesperson Molly Center said in a statement, "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."

The Elgin crackdown is a predictable escalation of a nanny-state culture that's popular at all levels of government. Centering government action around safety (from drugs, from Kinder eggs, from sledding, from whatever) invites that action into our personal spaces—even if, as in this case, the result is to make people less safe. Which is more likely: that a homeless man will die in Schiller's basement, or that he'll die sleeping in the cold?

Related: "Feeding the Homeless? There Could Be a Law Against That"

NEXT: Victory in the 'Kettle Falls Five' Case

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  1. At the comments section it says “THERE ARE NO COMMENTS”.

    After reading this, it is hard to think of one.

    1. “My wife donates money to the homeless and I donate money to the topless.”

      1. You have a wife, Crusty?

        1. I though he was trying to tell us he has a topless wife.

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  2. “While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community,” city spokesperson Molly Center said in a statement, “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.”

    “Fortunately, being outside in a frigid Chicago winter provides superb ventilation, plenty of exit routes, sufficient lighting during the day, but still poses some risk of carbon monoxide. We can only do so much, you know.”

    1. And his mama cries.

    2. Maybe it’s time for the homeless to camp on Molly Center’s doorstep. See how that cunt likes it.

  3. I bet his asshole neighbors complained. Can’t have icky homeless in the neighborhood. There is nothing worse than a neighbor that doesn’t mind his or her own business.

    1. I support as many people in other cities providing services to the homeless.

    2. There is nothing worse than a neighbor that doesn’t mind his or her own business.

      IDK, the sentence;

      Then an EMT informed him that he wasn’t allowed to house people in his garage.

      makes it sound like he did a pretty good job of making it clear that he was harboring a nuisance and/or contributing to a community burden from the get-go. At least, while I haven’t specifically asked the people I know who live in Elgin, I’m fairly certain that the EMT’s don’t generally go around inspecting the residents’ garages.

      1. Not unless, say, some rando homeless guy took a little too much ‘medicine’ and had be taken to the E.R. which is almost definitely what happened given my time working in the E.R.

        You’d be surprised how many homeless people will chug mouthwash for the alcohol. And yeah, that will kill you. And yeah, that’s one of the more mundane things they’ll do.

    3. “Can’t have icky homeless in the neighborhood.”

      That would be my guess too and at the same time I find it entirely understandable. Who does?

      1. Er… who does want icky homeless in the neighborhood?

      2. There’s the Hollywood fantasy of homelessness, then there’s the reality of it.

        In Seattle they have this program where you can house a homeless person in your backyard. It’s called The Block Project. I’ve been following it a little bit, curious on the long term success… I do know one thing about it. The vet the motherfucking fucking fuck out of the person that gets chosen to be in your backyard.

        1. The vet the motherfucking fucking fuck out of the person that gets chosen to be in your backyard.

          And Rev. Schiller appears to be specifically targeting the homeless people who don’t meet the standards to get into a community shelter.

          1. It makes sense. Even homeless shelters have these things called standards, and a surprising percentage of the homeless not only don’t, but don’t want to meet those standards.

    4. I bet his asshole neighbors complained.

      Nope

      Elgin Code Enforcement Manager Vince Cuchetto said firefighters had responded to a medical issue Saturday at the residence. Responders found at least 8 people living in Schiller’s basement, he added. City officials said the garage was in no way suitable to house homeless or be classified a temporary shelter.

      “It’s not the city’s intent to say they can’t go somewhere to be warm, but for something like that it has to be set up,” Cuchetto said. “Using space heaters and gas-powered appliances (in a garage), it’s not appropriate, it’s not safe.”

      1. Yeah, I…really want to sympathize with the guy trying to be charitable to the destitute, but not if he burns the block down and creates a bunch more homeless people. If what he’s doing presents a real, palpable danger to the other residents (and I have no opinion either way on whether that’s the case) I’m not sure it’s entirely inappropriate for someone to intervene.

        1. I’m not sure it’s entirely inappropriate for someone to intervene.

          Presumably, he or someone at the residence, summoned someone to intervene!

        2. After closely observing the homeless for the last seven or eight years, the one thing they’re really really good at is catching things on fire.

      2. If space heaters are not safe to use indoors why are they sold for indoors use?

        1. Depends how many this dude was using and how he was using them.

          1. Next to his gasoline storage, no doubt.

        2. If space heaters are not safe to use indoors why are they sold for indoors use?

          Who said they were safe for indoor use? Every one I’ve gotten contains stickers all over it indicating the minimum safe dimensions of the room it should be in how far away from any given object it should be and how operating it below a given fuel amount and/or not maintaining it has the potential to kill you and that you should use it in combination with a monitoring system. Most importantly, the manufacturer says they aren’t responsible when you don’t follow these guidelines. Which means fuck all when the neighbors or fire department have to drag asphyxiated bodies out of the guy’s basement at cost.

          1. homeless people are especially attuned to the dangers of appliances that tend to catch things on fire

  4. “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.”

    Better no home than a home with insufficient exists in the event of a fire!

    1. It’s too dangerous to stay in this basement. You’ll have to sleep outside where it’s -20 degrees.

      1. Oh they open the shelters at 15 degrees. 16 you’re on your own.

        1. Oh they open the shelters at 15 degrees. 16 you’re on your own.

          Right, the border wall around Chicago is closed and you can’t get out. You’re a moron who can’t figure out to have a roof over your head in the part of the country where people freeze to death *with* roofs every winter but the rest of us just have to bear the cost of your liberty stupidity.

          I’d suggest they go to Florida but they’d probably end up wading in noxious swamp waters, blissfully ignorant of snakes, alligators, etc. and… holy fuck low and behold.

          1. Uh, I don’t live in Chicago.

    2. Better no home than a home with insufficient exists in the event of a fire!

      Fucking firefighters and EMTs that the guy called to his house! The fuck do they know?

  5. Here in Elgin, we have quite a few homeless and we also have homeless shelters which are sponsored by the local churches. The homeless are required to be sober when they show up and can’t leave once they check in for the night. The accommodations are clean and food is provided. Many of these churches are located in older neighborhoods where they are are literally feet from adjoining houses. At least in my neighborhood, nobody seems to have a problem with this arrangement. The local Church/Shelter is about two blocks away from me. Also, the churches rotate every month so not just one neighborhood has to deal with a permanent shelter. This guy, on the other hand, invites random strangers, most of whom are mentally ill or substance abusers (or at least can’t bring themselves to at least appear sober enough to earn admittance to a regular shelter), into an unfinished basement in an old house with inadequate fire safety provisions, no control over their behavior, and permission to wander the neighborhood at will. His neighborhood consists of older homes on small lots. There are a lot of younger, low to middle income families with kids. His neighbor’s houses are probably no more than fifteen feet from his.

    To all the people who think that the only reason his neighbors and the City would have a problem with this is because they are unfeeling assholes who hate the homeless, I invite you to step up, go find a random homeless person, and allow them to spend the night on your couch.

    1. Your challenge accentuates Schiller’s selflessness not the city’s prudence, so I’m not sure why you made it.

    2. That’s probably illegal.

    3. There is so much wrong with this comment that I will not even begin to respond to it, but i will invite the writer to reflect upon what he wrote and think about whether it looks as obnoxiously self-righteous on the screen as it did in his head.

    4. “… I invite you to step up, go find a random homeless person, and allow them to spend the night on your couch.”

      You’re correct, John. We find it too easy to condemn the heartless city, while we as individuals do not want smelly, dangerous, unstable people living right next to us. We are often hypocrites, and your reminder of that is timely!

    5. Good point, John. Maybe this guy would be better off offering to take the homeless guys to a shelter.

    6. You first.

  6. So if this guy slept in his own basement he’d be breaking the law?

    1. Yes.

      1. Most jurisdictions prohibit bedrooms in basements unless there is an egress window built to code allowing escape in the unlikely event of a fire that would prevent escape up the stairway. Realtors call basement bedrooms “bonus rooms” because it’s illegal to put a bed down there. It’s legal to hang out in your basement man cave, get drunk, and pass out in the recliner anytime you want. Just don’t put a bed down there.


  7. “While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community,” city spokesperson Molly Center said in a statement, “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.”

    “…and that’s why we told those homeless people to fuck off and go freeze to death in the streets”, She finished calmly, with a gleam in her eye.

    Apparently, if the place where homeless people are staying isn’t perfect then I guess fuck them? This seems about the way I’d suspect.

    Now, on the flip side of that if I were this guys neighbor I’d be pissed. Gee, thanks, they’re going to shoot up heroin in my yard and leave the needles laying about because you won’t let them shoot up in your basement. Thanks so much, asshole. At least when I actually lived next door to a methadone clinic I knew what I was getting into, but this guy probably didn’t go around to his neighbors asking them if they’d be ok with housing a bunch of mentally unstable drug addicts next door.

    1. And no, this isn’t me saying that my neighbor needs my permission to do something with his property but I suppose after I shoot a few homeless heroin addicts in my backyard that they’ll get the point pretty quickly. Sadly, by that time I’d probably be in jail huh.

      1. There are no guns in Chicago. They are illegal there, which is why there are no gun deaths in Chicago.

    2. This is a particularly tough thing, since this guy’s actions do have an impact on his neighbors.

      This has gotten to be a real and very ugly problem in the SF Bay Area. The infamous Ghost Ship fire that killed three-dozen people happened in what was basically a homeless encampment inside of a warehouse. There was generalized outrage as it became clear that city officials knew about the place and looked the other way on all the building code violations because otherwise all of those people would have been living in encampments on the street.

      OTOH, over the last year there have been many lethal fires in the encampments that have sprung up around Oakland-Berkeley and SF and that are tolerated because there isn’t any code-compliant housing that any of these people could conceivably afford.

      So the City is blamed for the Ghost Ship fire because they didn’t kick those people out of that warehouse, but the City is also blamed for the fires in the encampments because those people at least nominally aren’t allowed to squat in warehouses.

  8. “Mr. Schiller’s house does not comply with codes and regulations”

    How well do cardboard boxes comply with heating codes?

    1. When stuffed with enough crumpled newspaper, they are quite warm. In relation to standing naked in a blizzard.

  9. This situation is a dilemma. On the one hand, the homeless people will freeze if they are outside in the winter. On the other hand, too many people in a crowded basement will lead to an outbreak, even if the homeless people do not fight with each other, misuse drugs, or neglect their hygiene.

    This dilemma is the cumulative result of a long line of government policies that make housing unaffordable. An early link in this chain of events started over a century ago with the creation of the Palisades Interstate Park. Like the flood described in Gilgamesh, the park came about when some snobs wanted to get rid of the people who were making too much noise.

    From the Palisades Interstate Park website:
    The quarries were in New Jersey, but the outcry against them had begun across the river in New York ? where each day millions could see the devastation the quarries caused. The first concerted effort to preserve the Palisades, in the 1890s, had been led by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, which was based in New York City. The Society at last found an ally on the Jersey side of the river in 1895, when the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs joined the fight. The women set out to persuade the state legislature to pass a bill to join with New York to protect the Palisades.

  10. It’s not nanny state, it’s that nobody (except charitable persons like this) wants bums nearby.

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