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West Ridge’s Shuttered YMCA Being Used To House Migrants Bused In From Texas

The High Ridge YMCA can house 120 of the more than 750 asylum seekers bused to Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The YMCA chapter closed in 2021.

The High Ridge YMCA is set to close at the end of January.
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WEST RIDGE — The closed High Ridge YMCA building in West Ridge is now being used as a shelter for migrants brought to Chicago from Texas, officials said.

The YMCA at 2424 W. Touhy Ave. is temporarily operating as a shelter for the migrants seeking asylum in the United States, Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) announced Monday.

As many as 120 people can stay at the former YMCA outpost, which closed in January 2021. Though the situation is “fluid,” the facility could be used as a shelter for “at least the next several months,” a spokesperson for Silverstein said.

Most of the migrants’ stays at the facility will be short before they move in with family and friends throughout the region or find their own apartment, Silverstein said in an email to constituents.

“Those most in need of support, including the elderly, pregnant women, and families with young children, are being greeted at state welcoming centers that can help them access the services they require,” she said.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago said it is assisting the city in helping the newly arrived migrants, including the use of its High Ridge facility, a spokesperson said. The move made sense given the facility’s location in West Ridge, home to a sizable immigrant and refugee population and agencies that cater to such populations, the agency said. 

“Because of the center’s geographic and demographic position, its multipurpose capacity, and the Y’s established institutional competency, the High Ridge Y facility will be part of a citywide activation through which these new arrivals are welcomed as they enter Chicago,” the the YMCA of said in a statement.

The West Ridge YMCA is being used an an emergency shelter as the city seeks to find housing for the more than 750 migrants bused to Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

At least four buses of migrants have been brought to Chicago this month without warning or coordination between Texas and local officials, city and state leaders have said. City agencies and volunteer groups have been scrambling to provide housing and other services to the migrants.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army are providing meals and other basic needs for those staying in the YMCA building, according to Silverstein. The National Guard is helping to staff the makeshift shelter and the YMCA is providing around-the-clock security.

Those arriving at the YMCA facility will have their needs addressed by city staff and personnel from human service agencies, according to the YMCA. 

Many of the migrants arriving in Chicago are fleeing violence and economic upheaval in Venezuela, Silverstein said. They are seeking asylum in the United States and are awaiting a court date, she said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Migrants disembark a bus at Union Station after a 25-hour-long ride from Texas on Sept. 9, 2022.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said the use of the YMCA facility is part of multi-government agency effort to find shelter and services for the migrants bused to Chicago.

“The city of Chicago and the Department of Family Support Services are committed to welcoming these migrants with dignity and respect, and upon arrival, individuals and families are provided immediate shelter and support to meet their basic needs,” Lightfoot spokesperson Alejandra Flores Rebollar said in a statement.

A state of emergency was declared by Gov. JB Pritzker to help fast-track housing and services for the migrants, who are being bused from Texas to Chicago and other Democrat-led cities including New York City and Washington, D.C.

The High Ridge YMCA facility has remained dormant for over a year after closing in early 2021, with the YMCA saying the location had been running at a deficit for years even before the pandemic caused the closure of workout facilities. It served the community for nearly 70 years.

Since its closure, neighbors organized to help save the High Ridge YMCA building and retain some kind of community use at the facility. Future long-term uses are still being considered for the building, a spokesperson for the YMCA previously said.

The YMCA is not accepting donations at its High Ridge facility, it said. The 50th Ward office at 2949 W. Devon Ave. is serving as a drop-off spot for donations for the asylum seekers, Silverstein said.

For other ways to help the migrant population, click here.

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