Vacant buildings throughout Rockford often become sites of shelter for the city's homeless population. Rockford fire chief Derek Bergsten says those people tend to start fires to stay warm, often leading to disaster.
"We had several homeless people pass away over the last five years that have started fires in vacant homes in attempt to stay warm."
City homeless coordinator Angie Walker says her group tries to keep residents safe with warm coats, gloves, and socks. Those items only protect from the cold for a short time.
Walker says there are many homeless shelters throughout the area and churches welcome people. City leaders continue to work on new initiatives to keep Rockford residents safe and healthy.