(The Center Square) – Taxpayer costs to care for migrants amount to $1.5 million a day, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said, and now those who faced eviction from city shelters will be able to stay until March.
Johnson has extended the 60-day stay deadline at the city’s homeless shelters twice due to weather concerns. Close to 2,000 migrants would have been forced out of the shelters Thursday had the deadline remained in place. Johnson said the policy was intended to clear shelter space and speed up connecting migrants to permanent housing.
During a news conference Monday, Johnson said what Chicago is dealing with is historic.
“Where a municipality is being asked, not even being asked, we’ve established a migrant refugee settlement,” he said. “That has never happened in the history of imperialism.”
To help migrants move out of shelters, staff will conduct at least two so-called “checkpoint assessments” after they are given their 60-day notice to answer questions about finding permanent housing and other support services. Migrants who can’t find permanent housing by the 60-day deadline will be able to file for further extensions to stay in a shelter.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state has allocated an additional $160 million to help the city.
“There are aspects of this that there are disagreements about, but the reality is we all understand our responsibility here and it is to have a humanitarian response,” said Pritzker.
Johnson said his administration will continue to assess the shelter stay policy through the end of winter, but admitted that funding will eventually dry up.
“This is not sustainable, and so the federal government has to lean in,” said Johnson. “As far as what we do, because the cost is $1.5 million a day, we are going to have to push the federal government to do its part.”
A poll last week showed Johnson is struggling with his approval ratings, and Illinois House of Representatives candidate Andre Smith asked for a recall of Johnson, calling the migrant crisis a “disaster.”