Compassion Reporting on poverty fighting and criminal justice

One man’s kindness spurs a city’s change of heart

Homelessness | After shutting down homeless ‘slumber parties’ at a suburban Chicago home, Illinois officials work to find new shelter space amid record-breaking cold
by Rob Holmes
Posted 1/11/18, 01:42 pm

City officials last week ordered an Elgin, Ill., man to stop using his home to host “slumber parties” for the homeless. But this week, the city wants Greg Schiller’s help to find new ways to fill gaps in services for the homeless.

Though his suburban Chicago home remains off-limits as a temporary shelter, Schiller said the city’s new attitude about how to house people on cold nights is “like an answered prayer,” according to WMAQ-TV in Chicago.

Schiller had defended welcoming the homeless into his home as a compassionate outreach: “I would stay up all night with them and give them coffee and stuff and feed them.” He insisted he never allowed drugs or alcohol inside his residence on the freezing nights he invited the homeless in. His kindness included a cot in the warm, dorm-style basement, plus hot drinks and movies. 

And Schiller came to the work with experience. He previously co-founded Matthew 25:40 Ministry, a homeless shelter outreach program at Elgin First United Methodist Church. After his resignation in 2016, Schiller began to minister to the homeless, first in his garage, and this year in his better-equipped basement.

But city officials in Elgin said Schiller’s basement didn’t meet its “sleeping regulations” code. When police officers inspected and shut down the basement “party” space last week, they cited the ceiling height as too low and the windows as too high and small to be used as an egress. 

Schiller said he decided to open his basement when the wind chill factor dipped below 15 degrees and area shelters did not open. Despite his attempts to protect people in dangerously low temperatures, officials said they would refer Schiller’s house to be condemned if he resisted the order to stop hosting the homeless, which included removal of a portable toilet set up for them. 

“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 spokeswoman Molly Center said in a statement last week.

After the showdown at Schiller’s home, the city is now helping lead the creation of new shelters and has even offered the police department lobby for people with nowhere to go, including those who have a criminal record that keeps them out of shelters.

Schiller got to know many of the city’s approximately 100 homeless people by offering them a place to stay. Although he’s stopped hosting the “slumber parties,” as he calls them, he will join forces with the city to help care for those who don’t have a home of their own.

Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Roberson Associated Press/Photo by Jeff Roberson Mark Zuckerberg meets with entrepreneurs in St. Louis.

Billions gained and given away

The world’s wealthiest people gained an extra $1 trillion in 2017. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index provides a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos expanded his wealth the most, with a $34.2 billion gain. Bill Gates—worth $91.3 billion—now occupies second place to Bezos’ $99.6 billion.

Financial analysts say the enormous gains for the already wealthy are due to a robust market. 

Noteworthy about some high-ranking billionaires in the United States is their willingness to give up their fortunes—or a portion of them: Gates, George Soros, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg have pledged to give or have already given away billions. Too bad most of the money has gone to liberal, or even anti-Christian causes.

Facebook founder Zuckerberg increased his fortune by a whopping $22.6 billion last year. He and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced plans in 2015 to give away 99 percent of their (now) $72.6 billion net worth, partly through sales of his stake in Facebook. 

The world’s richest men still stand to gain much in this life, but their giving should remind Christians who are less wealthy—but blessed—of our Master’s words: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” —R.H.

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Illinois gives homeless free birth certificates

Only 12 Illinois legislators voted against giving a new benefit to the homeless. Illinois House Bill 3060 provides free birth records as a service for anyone without a regular residence. The bill waives the $10 fee for a birth records search and the $5 copy fee for the actual certificate. Anyone caught faking homelessness will have to pay a $100 fine. —R.H.

Nominate your favorite ministry for the 2018 Hope Awards

The deadline to nominate ministries for WORLD’s 2018 Hope Awards for Effective Compassion is fast approaching. If you know of a Christian poverty-fighting organization that offers challenging, personal, and spiritual help—and does not depend on government funding—let us know by Jan. 31. Send the name and location of the ministry along with a brief note describing its worthiness to June McGraw (jmcgraw@wng.org). Be sure to include the ministry’s website address and phone number, so we can conduct our initial research. For those that make the cut, we’ll send reporters out to witness their work firsthand. WORLD will announce the regional finalists this summer. —Mickey McLean

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Rob Holmes

Rob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course. Follow Rob on Twitter @SouthernFlyer.

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