CHICAGO — Local groups are working to help at least 75 migrants who arrived in the city Wednesday night — and they’re asking for help from neighbors.
The migrants were bused to Chicago from Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said he will send undocumented immigrants to Democrat-led cities as part of a protest of federal border policies.
Chicago’s officials were ready to greet them Wednesday night, connecting them with shelters and agencies that can help the refugees find homes, jobs and resources, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other local leaders said. She said she expects Texas will send more migrants to Chicago, and the city will need help to care for them.
The city has partnered with local groups to try to help the migrants rebuild their lives in Chicago or settle in other cities. Here’s more on some of those groups and how you can support them.
Erie Neighborhood House
The nonprofit with locations in West Town, Near West Side and Little Village provides mental health care, adult education and training, legal services and other services for low-income and immigrant families.
“Erie and other community organizations have been doing this kind of work for years,” said Isaias Solis, the group’s senior director of programs. “Every time we have migrants that arrive — whether it be from Latin America, Central America, most recently Ukraine and Afghanistan — we’ve been providing a lot of support.”
Anyone interested in volunteering with or donating to Erie can go to its website or call 312-563-5800. The organization works with hundreds of volunteers every year, Solis said.
“We love that the city of Chicago is a welcoming city, a sanctuary city,” Solis said. “We’re here to help. We’re here to support. Our doors are open. And we want to make sure that we’re part of the solution.”
CommunityHealth is one of the largest volunteer-based health centers in the United States, offering free services to low-income, uninsured Chicagoans, which is primarily an immigrant population, external affairs director Laura Ciresi Starr said.
The group has been in close contact with the Mayor’s Office and other local groups to help the migrants, and many staff members and volunteers are bilingual, Starr said. Migrants are welcome whether they are only stopping in Chicago for a short period or if they plan to stay long-term, Starr said.
“We really strongly believe that everybody should have access to essential health care at no cost if they need it,” Starr said. “We want to make sure they know we are available to be a welcoming place. That we can be their doctor’s office, their yoga studio, their pharmacy — all of these things all in one place.”
CommunityHealth has three clinics: 2611 W. Chicago Ave., 5413 W. Diversey Ave. and 2759 S. Harding Ave.
Anyone interested in learning more or becoming a volunteer can find more information in English, Spanish and Polish on the CommunityHealth website. CommunityHealth has a huge volunteer base that provides many of the organization’s services, with roles for medical providers, interpreters, health educators and more, Starr said.
The Southwest Collective is a group of neighbors and activists who have organized food giveaways and other services for residents in need throughout the pandemic. The group also offers an open forum for Southwest Side residents to voice their concerns, and it launches economic, educational and recreational initiatives to bring the community together.
Board member and volunteer Adriana Vargas said the group can help the migrants through its food equity initiatives and monthly Freebies for Families events, at which parents can pick up or drop off gently used baby and children’s items.
The next Freebies for Families event is noon-2 p.m. Sept. 24. The location isn’t confirmed yet, but it will likely be at Zoe’s Patio, 5518 S. Archer Ave.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Southwest Collective or helping out can visit its website or reach out to Vargas at firstname.lastname@example.org. The organization’s biggest needs at the moment are diapers and baby formula, Vargas said.
“As the daughter of immigrants, it’s very personal for me,” Vargas said. “When we had the city reach out to us, I right away raised my hand and said, ‘I want to be on this call and I want to hear what’s going on and how we can help.'”
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