A man in Elgin, Ill., generously opened up his home to house those without shelter during the winter’s freezing temperatures. However, the city government found out about it and threatened to seize his house if he did not shut down his charitable work.
Greg Schiller owns a house in the suburbs of Chicago. Last winter, he used his garage to temporarily shelter homeless people if the temperature was extremely cold. Back then, the city told him to stop, which he did. He moved the operation from his garage to his basement.
His “slumber parties” for the homeless enabled those without a place to live to avoid freezing to death. He would often have about a dozen people down in his basement where they would watch movies, have some food, and drink coffee to stay warm.
“I would stay up all night with them and give them coffee and stuff and feed them,” he said, according to NBC Chicago.
The city of Elgin apparently has “sleeping regulations” for basements, and recently threatened to take Schiller’s house if he did not end the operation within 24 hours.
"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 the news report.
City officials and police officers even showed up to his door with a warrant to find those he was housing. Schiller is simply aghast at what the city has done to him, and even more so to the people whom he has been helping.
“Somebody’s going to die."
Schiller opened up his home because many other shelters will only open if the temperature reaches below a certain threshold. However, the cold can still be deadly well before such temperatures are reached. Additionally, the shelters often have strict requirements for those seeking a place to escape the cold, precluding some from being able to find warmth.
It’s a shame that local government is effectively waging a war on charity and helping the homeless. It’s the American way to help people in need without government mandate or coercion. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America, Americans uniquely used the tool of association to do all sorts of incredible things in their communities, helping those in need being one of them.
But now we are at a point where voluntarily helping other people with one’s own resources is often frowned upon, and even forbidden. Indeed, in upscale Malibu, Ca., local government tried to pressure a local church to stop feeding the homeless because it was “luring the needy.”
Such prohibition on charity is simply unacceptable. It breeds contempt of those in need, and discourages people from aiding their neighbors. A free society is one in which people freely help each other out, in which people see each other as valuable — as resources to be developed, not liabilities to be managed.
A man who freely offers his home and resources to those who are freezing to death should be commended, not threatened with condemnation of his house. It appears that local government officials have much to learn about truly helping those in need.