CHICAGO (CBS) – Christmas Eve was a good day for Gwen Ingram. She was able to get a meal and a couple of toys at the Rev. Paul Hall’s annual holiday food drive on South Ashland Avenue.
She is homeless and at times has lived in abandoned buildings, the last time two weeks ago.
Ingram says she many others are so desperate for shelter, they put their lives in danger by going beyond boarded up doors and windows.
“You got rats, people smoking pipes, dope dealers, reefer smokers,” said Ingram. “Alcoholics, people pushing over everybody. Kids getting molested. It’s just sad.”
It is a sad story that was brought to new light when two Chicago firefighters died Wednesday in an abandoned building on 75th Street.
Officials now believe the someone set the fire. And investigators have talked to several homeless men and women who sought shelter here.
“When the homeless people get desperate, many times they don’t want to go to the big shelters, so they’ll just go into an abandoned building and set a fire to keep themselves warm,” said Hall. “They have nowhere else to go. And I’m not ashamed (to admit it.)”
It is a tragedy that can have a devastating ripple effect.
“So if you got somewhere to stay, you’d better be thanking God you got somewhere to stay,” said Carolyn Myles, who says she once lived in an abandoned building with her daughter.