Migrants are living in tents outside the 12th District Police Station in order to stay out of the rain. Credit: Alex Hernandez, Block Club Chicago

BRIGHTON PARK — A tent encampment for migrants may be coming to the Southwest Side.

City officials are reviewing a lot at 38th Street and California Avenue as a possible location for proposed tent camps intended to house up to 1,000 migrants each.

The “winterized base camps” were suggested by Mayor Brandon Johnson last month as a way to get thousands of migrants out of police stations and provide them a form of shelter as colder temperatures arrive.

Critics have been vocal in their opposition of the plan and of the company that received a $29 million city contract to build the camps. But city leaders have defended the decision as a necessary strategy.

While the timeline for the base camps is unclear, some migrants have no choice but to sleep outside, despite the dropping temperatures, the Tribune reported this week.

Ald. Julia Ramirez (12th), whose ward includes the site, said the lot is privately owned by the Sanchez Group.

“The site is currently being evaluated by city departments,” the alderwoman said in a statement Sunday. Ramirez couldn’t be reached immediately for further comment.

Ramirez and city leaders are hosting a community meeting to share more details with the public 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at Thomas Kelly High School, 4136 S. California Ave.

A mayoral spokesperson also couldn’t be reached immediately. It’s unclear if the city has a timeline for construction start or end dates, or how much it would cost to lease the space.

A lot at Halsted and 115th streets was also presented as a possible location for a tent camp, but neighbors fiercely pushed back on that plan at a community meeting last month. It’s unclear if that plan is moving forward.

Migrants take shelter and live inside of the Near West 12th police precinct in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., August 29, 2023. Credit: Jim Vondruska for Block Club Chicago

More than 18,500 migrants have come to the city since August 2022, many of them arriving on buses sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

The influx of asylum seekers has overloaded the city’s shelter system, leaving local leaders scrambling for more temporary housing for large numbers of people as the weather cools.

About 3,600 people are sleeping in police station lobbies and at O’Hare Airport, according to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. About 11,200 people are living in city-run shelters as of Tuesday — up from 6,600 on Aug. 31.

Many asylum seekers are from Venezuela, which has struggled with an economic crisis that has caused severe food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation, widespread unemployment and violent crime. 

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