Chicago officials say city needs to include public in migrant housing decisions



(The Center Square) – As Chicago continues to see an influx of noncitizen arrivals coming to the city, there are questions about how to shelter these individuals during winter.

The people have been housed in police stations, YMCAs, and former colleges, and as the numbers continue to increase, city officials are looking at public places that could be turned into shelter cities.

Original plans by the city included warming buses for the migrants during the winter months and a $29 million contract to use taxpayer funds for military-grade tent cities. The city has also used 17 churches in its plan, and each site is expected to hold about 20 arrivals.

Alderman Chris Taliaferro told The Center Square that the city approached him about using a public park in his district for shelter.

“They informed me that they were going to use Amundsen Park as a migrant shelter, and I disagreed with repurposing that park,” Taliaferro said. “You would be taking resources away from an already underserved community.”

Taliaferro said he has received pushback from the people who live in his ward about using the park to house the migrants.

“It was not a good location to shut down and turn into a migrant shelter,” Taliaferro said. “The residents, as well as I, became outraged at the prospect of it.”

Other areas discussed included Brighton Park, but the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency shut that project down due to insufficient soil sampling and remediation.

Now that Amundsen Park and other spots like Brighton Park have fallen through, the state is expediting efforts to launch the previously announced brick-and-mortar shelter site in Little Village with plans to have 200 beds available to families and people with disabilities.

“My administration is committed to keeping asylum seekers safe as we work to help them achieve independence,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “We will not proceed with housing families on a site where serious environmental concerns are still present. My administration remains committed to a data-driven plan to improve the asylum seeker response, and we will continue to coordinate with the City of Chicago as we work to expand available shelter through winter.”

The city and the state have already used taxpayer dollars to shelter the arrivals. Recently announced state funding breaks down to $30 million for a large intake center, $65 million to help Chicago launch a winterized shelter site, and $65 million in increased funding to expand wraparound services for non-citizens.

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