This week, as record low temperatures are sweeping across the country, the homeless population in areas like Chicago are struggling to stay warm, and alive. Some areas of Chicago have seen temperatures of lower than 22 degrees below zero in the past week.
A group of 70 homeless people were attempting to keep warm using a nearly 100 propane heaters at an encampment of tents in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood the other night when one of the heaters exploded, destroying many of the shelters.
Luckily, no one was hurt in the explosion.
Fire Department Chief Walter Schroeder said that blast happened because a propane tank was too close to a space heater.
“We responded to a fire. 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. There was a significant amount of propane there, and with that many cylinders, that’s like a bomb going off,’’ Schroeder said, according to The Hill.
To make matters worse, when the fire department showed up, they confiscated the remaining heaters and informed the public to not donate any more of them.
“This is extremely unsafe,” Major David Byrd, the Illinois State Police Region commander, said of the heaters, not recognizing that the alternative of being on the streets without heat was far more dangerous.
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
After the explosion, 70 homeless people were left without heat or shelter, and the nearby Salvation Army was warned about the incident and began to prepare beds as quickly as possible. However, in the meantime, an anonymous good samaritan booked hotel rooms for all of the people in need
Jackie Rachev at the local Salvation Army told CNN that she is not sure who the anonymous donor is, or even what hotel was booked.
“The Salvation Army was prepared to welcome approximately 70 individuals who were affected by the explosion but was notified those services were not necessary as the individuals were already being taken of. We are thrilled that they are safe and warm. We know Chicagoans have very big hearts, but we ask that they do not provide propane tanks, as they are very dangerous,” Rachev told CNN.
Another business in Chicago, Aeslin Pup Hub, has opened up their doors to homeless people and their pets since most shelters do not allow animals.
“I thought, ‘who do I need to do this, who do I have to call? And let’s make this happen’ because this weather’s ridiculous and nobody at all – not one human being or dog – should be sleeping overnight without help,” Leah Bindig told CBS.
It has been reported that at least 10 people have died as a result of the cold temperatures, and the homeless population is at a greater risk than anyone.
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