Sen. Willie Preston will host a meeting at the Healthy Lifestyle Hub in Auburn Gresham Wednesday to discuss the city's ongoing migrant crisis. Credit: Wille Preston; Atavia Reed/Block Club Chicago

AUBURN GRESHAM — Sen. Willie Preston is inviting South Side neighbors to a town hall Wednesday to discuss the city’s ongoing efforts to welcome migrants to communities. 

Preston will host the town hall 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Auburn Gresham’s Healthy Lifestyle Hub, 839 W. 79th St. Neighbors can share their feedback and learn more about “this predominant issue,” Preston’s office said in a news release. 

Preston represents the state’s 16th district and lives in Auburn Gresham.

“This is a highly-talked-about issue, and Senator Preston wants to ensure that he is doing his job as a public official by gathering feedback and advisements from his 16th District Community,” representatives said in the news release. 

The city has seen a sharp increase in the number of buses carrying migrants to Chicago, with 295 of 395 total buses having arrived since May 12.

The surge has overwhelmed city shelters, forcing officials to set up more than 20 temporary facilities across the city. Almost 2,900 migrants were being housed at police districts across the city as of Monday morning, according to a city spokesperson.

A makeshift bed made by migrants sits outside of the Near West 12th police precinct in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., August 29, 2023.

Mayor Brandon Johnson announced plans in September to move thousands of migrants out of police stations into winterized base camps modeled after New York City shelters. Johnson’s administration recently signed a $29 million contract with Virginia-based GardaWorld Federal Services to build the tent cities.

Following pushback from alderpeople and activists, Johnson defended the city’s contract with the controversial company last week, stating his administration will “monitor to make sure that this company, this entity, is not violating the trust of the people of Chicago.”

21st Ward residents gathered for an explosive meeting at a Far South Side church early last month after news spread that Johnson’s administration might consider a vacant lot at 115th and Halsted Street as a site for the winterized tents. 

Ald Ronnie Mosley (21st), whose ward includes the lot, said at the time it was “not likely” the city would use the Far South Side lot for tent camps, but he couldn’t “give a definite no.”

Johnson confirmed Friday that the city’s plan to house asylum seekers in tents is still moving forward, although no specific sites have been announced. 

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Atavia Reed is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, covering the Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods. Twitter @ataviawrotethis