100 migrants move into Little Village shelter; over 200 await shelter at South Loop 'landing zone'

City officials expected to share shelter plan Friday as major winter storm moves in

Thursday, January 11, 2024
100 more migrants move into Little Village shelter
A Chicago migrant shelter in Little Village received another 100 migrants Thursday as over 200 more await shelter at the South Loop "landing zone."

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Reaction is coming in to a state run migrant shelter now open in Little Village.

Chicago says they've received 34,000 migrants from the Texas border in the last year-and-a-half.

Shelter space continues to be at a premium around Chicago. As of this morning there were still 239 people awaiting placement at the South Loop landing zone.

Meanwhile, about 100 more migrants were brought to a former CVS at the corner of 27th Street and Pulaski Road in the city's Little Village neighborhood around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, following another 100 new arrivals who were brought there on Wednesday.

"People are sleeping inside the concrete... inside the brick and mortar I should say, they're sleeping inside," said Matt DeMateo with new Life Centers. "And the tent structures in the parking lot is largely bathrooms, showers, feeding area and rec area."

The migrants are all people who have spent the last few weeks living at the O'Hare Hilton, which was turned into a temporary shelter on Christmas Eve, according to DeMateo. While New Life is in charge of taking care of wraparound services for all of those housed in Little Village, their biggest priority is on moving them out of shelters once their 60 days are up.

"As of Monday, we are now doing 55 apartments per day. 275 moves per week, 1100 per month," DeMateo said. "Catholic Charities finds the apartments, they get the rental assistance through IDA and then New Life comes in and fully furnishes the apartment and moves them in."

Business owner Victor Santay who works right by the shelter offered his take on the neighborhood's temporary new neighbors.

"This community, Little Village, is very open to immigrants," he said. "It's been like this since the beginning, I believe."

Santay's family owns and operates Victor's Barber Shop and Beauty Salon, just across the street from where large white tents have now been erected near a former CVS pharmacy now turned migrant shelter.

"That spot has been vacant for about 2 years now. I think it will be a good use at this time," Santjay said. "I would love to see them get allocated, get their work permits in and so they can start contributing and not receiving as much."

SEE ALSO: Chicago migrant crisis: Texas bus companies may be making millions transporting new arrivals

Officials said more than 200 migrants including families and children will call this old store home for the time being.

The shelter is the first state-funded facility for new arrivals in the city.

The situation at the city's South Loop landing zone continues to be problematic, with hundreds of people, mostly single men, spending days sleeping onboard CTA warming buses. Chi-Care has now committed to providing two meals a day, lunch and dinner for migrants through the middle of next week.

"Starting yesterday, we started serving lunch and dinner... hot meals," said Maggie O'Keefe with Chi-Care. "Yesterday, we served chicken fajitas and. Today is going to be meatballs and pasta."

The situation could become untenable over the next several days as a major winter storm hits the area and temperatures plummet. City officials are now scrambling to come up with a plan to take care of those here. At least some of those details expected to be released Friday.

READ MORE | Chicago weather: Winter Storm Warning issued for much of area, with several inches of snow expected

"We work with everyday with the city of Chicago as they identify locations where we can setup shelters," Governor JB Pritzker said.

During a Wednesday news conference, Governor Pritzker said he's pleased with the shelter's setup and how it will accommodate families now calling Chicago home.

"It's phenomenal what we've been able to do in a very short period of time and to accommodate very young children," Pritzker said. "You know early childhood education is very important to me, making sure these young children have a place where they can play, even in a very difficult situation."

The opening of the new shelter comes as the city continues to grapple with the influx of migrants.

City officials say nearly 600 migrants are awaiting temporary shelter with most currently staying at the city's so-called 'landing zone' in the South Loop or O'Hare's bus depot.

Victor said the new arrivals will make Chicago a better place to live.

"I think overtime it will make us stronger," Santjay said. "Eventually everyone is going to work and we are all going to build the city bigger than it once was."

Mayor Brandon Johnson is expected to meet next week with regional mayors at the United Center to discuss a strategy as migrants are bussed to neighboring communities outside the city.