from our partnerFaithwire
written byWill Maule
A good Samaritan in the city of Chicago engaged in an absolutely stunning gesture of generosity by paying for around 70 homeless people to stay in a hotel. News of the anonymous donor comes after temperatures plummeted due to an arctic weather blast dubbed the “Polar Vortex.”
— Barry Butler (@barrybutler9) January 30, 2019
Many of the city’s homeless were huddled under an expressway, surrounded by 100 donated propane tanks. However, after one of the tanks exploded, local authorities deemed them unsafe, removed the remaining devices and asked that people stop donating the heating fuel.
“We responded to a fire,’’ said Chief Walter Schroeder, according to the Chicago Tribune. “When we got there, the fire was extinguished and they found all these propane cylinders. That’s when we escalated it to a Level I Hazmat.’’
During extreme cold weather, we understand that people want to help our homeless population. However, we ask that under no circumstance should you donate propane tanks which are potential fire hazards. Propane tanks can cause potential fires and explosions.
— Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) January 30, 2019
“There was a significant amount of propane there, and with that many cylinders, that’s like a bomb going off,” Schroeder added.
Then, something extraordinary happened. As Salvation Army spokeswoman Jacqueline Rachev prepared a warming center, she was notified that an anonymous donor was dropping enough cash to house 70 homeless people in a hotel, for a week!
“All the folks there, some wonderful citizen is going to put all of them up at a hotel for the rest of the week,” Rachev noted.
Just how cold is it?
Very. Chicago is experiencing record-breaking temperatures, plummeting to -21°, the coldest it’s ever been on 31 January. According to CBS Chicago, the previous record was -12° recorded on Jan. 31, 1985. The windchill was at an absolutely baltic -51° Wednesday, with Thursday coming in at -41°.
The official low temperature at Chicago this morning was -21F. This shatters the previous record for Jan 31st, which was -12F set back 1985. In records that date back to the 1870s, this is only the 15th time Chicago has seen a daily low this cold or colder, yesterday was 14th.
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) January 31, 2019
Weather forecasters have predicted that Chicago will also be doused with fresh snow Thursday night, with most of the city area getting 1 to 3 inches.
It has become so cold that railway workers have been forced to set fire to the tracks in order keep them from freezing and preventing the train system from grinding to a halt.
— ABC News (@ABC) January 30, 2019
Others have been demonstrating the staggering cold by throwing cups of hot water into the air—the freezing dry atmosphere causes the water to evaporate at a rapid speed, which in turn creates a phenomenon whereby the water almost instantly turns into vapor, condenses into a cloud and floats off.
— Jeff Schlapp (@jeff_schlapp) January 30, 2019
Homeless Shelters Overflowing
According to The Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago’s largest homeless shelter broke protocol Tuesday night by allowing some 800 people to spend the night. Pacific Garden Mission doesn’t normally admit short-term visitors, but in light of the frigid temperatures, the decision was made to swing open the doors.
“I was out there for three or four days,” Alfred Harris Brown, 67, told the Sun-Times. “My hands froze like nobody’s business, they were hurting … I appreciate this shelter, that’s the truth. I’m here and I’m warm.”
“What I can tell you right now is they’re being used,” Rich Guidice, who heads up the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said of the city’s shelters.
Generous donors have contributed supplies to help the shelters accommodate a growing number of guests during the dire conditions.
you guys my wife went out to run errands and she came back with all these items to assemble dozens of hygiene kits for homeless shelters in Chicago that are over crowded as a result of the harsh winter weather here she is a hero and I don’t deserve @EireannDolan none of us do tbh pic.twitter.com/0pvSS0tLto
— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) January 29, 2019
However, though the burgeoning shelters act as an effective bandaid in this period of brutal weather, Doug Schenkelberg, the executive director of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, noted that the facilities were not an adequate long-term solution.
“In a couple days, this weather will pass,” he told TIME. “They will close up the extra cots and the sense of urgency will be gone.”
“People are homeless 365 days a year and the City of Chicago isn’t doing enough to address homelessness,” he noted.