Chicago, IL

Chicago Alderman Delay Plans to House Homeless Migrants at Closed School Due to Community Protests

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Members of a South Side Chicago neighborhood protest housing migrants in shuttered elementary school saying the needs of the community should come first
The homeless problem in Chicago worsens as migrants arrive by the busloadPhoto byTyler M/flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A report published in October of 2022 stated that there were at least 65,000 homeless people living in Chicago. Added to this number are the migrants who have arrived in Chicago since September that the city must find resources to help settle. Since last fall about 4000 asylum-seekers were sent by Texas and other states have sent over 1400. Of those, the city remains responsible for approximately 1,500. There have also been over 4,000 Ukrainians that have come to Chicago from Feb. through December 2022, fleeing the Russian invasion of their country.

Chicago has created 11 shelters to provide for these asylum seekers which for December alone cost the city $7 million. Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot wrote a letter to state lawmakers making a case for supplemental funding for Chicago as state officials stated they plan to stop all financial aid for Chicago migrants on January 31st 2023.

Members of the Chicago City Council have been attempting to generate solutions in order to accommodate all those in need of housing and resources but it has been tough going. With winter in full swing, the need to find housing for homeless residents and migrants has become critical. One such effort has run into problems due to protests from the community.

For months, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has worked on plans to house 250 men and women in the Former Wadsworth Elementary School at 6420 S. University Ave. in Woodlawn. Initially intending to open the shelter January 5th, community protests led to a delay.

While some of the community members are against the shelter altogether, others are more concerned about the funds being poured into a school they had fought to keep open for immigrant to the city. They feel that the resources that will be provided to the asylum seekers are resources the members of the community don't have and aren't being offered.

Jeanette Taylor, alderwoman for Ward 20 where the shelter will be located said this isn't about the community being anti- immigrant but about residents feeling like they aren't being respected and their position not being considered.

“This is not just about the migrants; this is about our Black and brown solidarity” said Alderwoman Taylor. “So, this rhetoric of us against them is, no, this is a sanctuary for all. This should be us taking care of each other.”

Protesters from the Woodlawn neighborhood said they were concerned as their community had so few resources already and more money would be taken from them to fund the migrants. They demanded that Mayor Lightfoot rededicate the money for the shelter back to their community for housing for their local homeless population or to fund other resources to decrease violence and poverty. Due to the community protest, the Mayor delayed opening the shelter.

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Last night, at least 100 residents of the Woodlawn community met for over two and a half hours at the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave. to continue to express their views about the shelter.

There will be security guards hired by the city and residents living there will be required to observe an 11:00pm curfew. Resources for the residents of the shelter will include case managers and ESL classes, among others.

As of now, the Mayor has announced that the shelter will open on Jan. 23rd. It has been renovated to house 250 adults. However, during the meeting some officials implied that it might house more than that during the 2 years it is currently slated to be a temporary migrant shelter.

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Chicago, IL

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