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Bronzeville, Near South Side

A Former Charter School In Douglas Has Been Converted Into A Shelter For Migrants

The shelter is one of 10 facilities the city has converted into temporary housing for migrants being bused here from Texas and Colorado.

The former home of the Young Women's Leadership Academy is now home to 250 asylum seekers who were recently bused in from Texas.
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DOUGLAS — Another former South Side school has been converted into a shelter for migrants as the city struggles to house an influx of people bused here from Texas and Colorado.

The former home of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, 2641 S. Calumet Ave., has become a shelter for 250 migrants, officials said. The school is one of 10 facilities in Chicago that has been turned into a shelter as officials have scrambled for months to find room and resources for migrants in need.

The shelters have caused consternation in some communities; in nearby Woodlawn, some residents protested when the closed Wadsworth school was turned into a shelter with little to no notice to the alderperson and neighbors. Some suburban officials have also complained about the city temporarily putting up migrants in hotels and other spots.

Some Douglas neighbors expressed wariness at the new shelter, while others asked how they could help during a virtual community hearing Tuesday where officials detailed their plans for the site.

The Douglas shelter is the third temporary shelter to be opened in the 4th Ward, joining the South Loop’s Social Club and Greektown’s Parthenon Hotel — but the latter will be shut down Wednesday and its residents sent to other facilities, city officials said.

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City officials shared examples of the shower trailers asylum seekers are using during their stay at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy building, now a shelter for undocumented residents.

The Douglas shelter is for single men only. Residents receive a cot, blanket, pillow, hygiene kit, personal protective equipment and three meals per day.

The residents must sign in and out of the shelter, and they have an 11 p.m. curfew unless they get an extension approved by the staff, officials said.

Visitors aren’t allowed at the site, and drugs and alcohol are banned. Residents who violate the rules could be sent to another shelter, said Christine Riley, a representative from the city’s department of family and social services.

Before the migrants are sent to Chicago, they undergo biometric scans and are checked through the national database at the border, city officials said. They are coming from Central and South America.

The city is working with state officials on a long-term plan to help migrants with permanent housing and employment, which will require funding from the federal government, said Natasha Hamilton, managing deputy commissioner of the city’s housing department.

On Wednesday, the city accepted $20 million in state funding to aid migrants.

The facility is also receiving special attention from Chicago police, who perform frequent building checks and collaborate with onsite security to keep the shelter safe, said 1st District Cmdr. David Harris.

The number of security professionals at the shelter will be determined by how many people are being housed there at a time, officials said. Members of the security team are stationed at every entrance and rounds are conducted indoors and outdoors.

Police cameras were installed in the front of the school March 10, and fencing with green tarp gives shelter residents privacy if they step outside. The shower trailer is connected to the building so residents never have to go outside.

People can find ways to donate or volunteer to help migrants on the city’s website. Those interested in jobs at the shelter can apply online for shelter positions and security positions.

The city has said the temporary shelters are necessary as it hasn’t had space in permanent locations for all the migrants being sent here from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Colorado’s Jared Polis. Polis said in early January Colorado would stop sending migrants to Chicago.

The pace of arrivals has slowed in recent weeks, but 5,146 people have been sent to Chicago since late August, and area shelters are still accepting at least 10 walk-ins a day, city officials said at a virtual community hearing Tuesday.

“It was [Abbott’s goal] to punish welcoming cities and force President [Joe] Biden’s hand and strain our infrastructure. We would learn about buses coming through the grapevine with little to no notice at all,” said Nubia Willman, the mayor’s chief engagement officer.

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