PILSEN — About 400 migrants will be housed in a new temporary shelter in Pilsen beginning Tuesday, officials said.
The asylum seekers will live in a converted warehouse at 2241 S. Halsted St., city leaders said at a community meeting Monday evening. It will house families with children, they said.
Up to 1,000 people could eventually be housed there, said a leader with the Department of Family Support Services.
Pilsen’s Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th); Beatriz Ponce de Leon, the deputy mayor of immigrant, migrant and refugee rights; and city officials with the Department of Family Support Services, Office of Emergency Management and Communications and Chicago police hosted the last-minute meeting in Pilsen to let neighbors know about the shelter’s opening and to answer questions.
The push to expand the city’s housing options comes as a record number of buses sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other border-state governors as a protest of federal immigrant policies have arrived in Chicago. Each bus carries about 50 migrants.
More than 17,000 people have arrived in total to the city since August 2022, Ponce de Leon said Monday.
Ponce de Leon said as many as 20 to 25 buses could be coming to Chicago every day now, as Abbott has contracted additional bus companies. Abbott has also indicated he won’t abide by a previously established agreement to not send buses to arrive in Chicago between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., she said.
The Pilsen warehouse will join 23 other sites citywide — including city colleges, shuttered schools, park facilities, and other buildings — serving as temporary shelters for migrants. Officials have said these shelters are all at or near capacity.
The warehouse was previously used for manufacturing, but is currently vacant, according to Sigcho-Lopez’s office. The owner thought it could be suitable for housing and brought it to the city’s attention.
More than 9,600 people are staying in city shelters, up from 6,600 Aug. 31, Ponce de Leon said. She said about 2,900 are being housed in police stations across the city and both airports.
Many migrants arriving in Chicago on buses are from Venezuela, which has struggled with political upheaval and an economic crisis resulting in severe food and medicine shortages, surging inflation and rising unemployment and violent crime.
About 200 neighbors showed up to the Monday meeting in Pilsen. The crowd remained mostly respectful, but there were outbursts at times.
Some neighbors said they wanted to see the city similarly prioritize resources and work permit opportunities for longtime undocumented residents.
Other said the city should be spending more money and attention addressing issues that plague current residents, like rising rents and property taxes — an issue that’s hit Pilsen hard — instead of caring for migrants.
“First, take care of the problems you have here already,” one man said in Spanish.
Community activist Teresa Fraga said she understands the city is in a “tight spot.” She asked about the city’s safety plan for the shelter, considering it’s only a few blocks away from Walsh Elementary School and Dvorak Park.
City officials passed out a fact sheet with certain rules migrants have to follow, including an 11 p.m. curfew, but Fraga said she thought that was too late.
“I don’t think people need to be out in the neighborhood that late, especially around Dvorak Park,” she said.
Despite some pushback, some neighbors said they welcomed the shelter’s opening.
“No child should ever sleep on the floor of a police station,” said pediatrician Han Yu Stephanie Liou of Alivio Medical Center. She urged city leaders to invest in local Pilsen organizations who have been doing work “not just for our newly arrived migrants, but for undocumented families who have been here for decades.”
“We need this funding — we’ve always needed this funding, but we need it now,” she said.
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