Edgewater residents resist Chicago migrants moving into Broadway Armory, leaders want more resources

Friday, July 28, 2023
North Side residents resist plans to house migrants at Broadway Armory
Chicago migrants may be housed at Broadway Armory Park Fieldhouse in Edgewater as city leaders demand more resources from the federal government.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the city plans to turn the Broadway Armory into temporary housing for migrants, leaders are demanding more resources from the federal government.

On the North Side, an active group of constituents expressed emotions from frustration to fury over plans to shut down the Broadway Armory Park Fieldhouse and temporarily repurpose it as a shelter for migrants.

"Most of our programming will end tomorrow," said Stacey Anti, north region director for the Chicago Park District.

Gymnastics and popular community access facilities in the armory will close to the public for now, which is not sitting well with many of the neighborhood's residents

Community members say the space is precious and actively used by almost every sector of the Edgewater community.

"We started looking for alternatives," said Dr. Laura Chamberlain, who lives in the area. "Why are you taking our armory, where 1,600 people from our community and at risk kids come every week?"

"What we want is a win-win situation," said Hussain Mohammed, resident. "There are five other churches around the neighborhood. Surely we can come up with a solution."

The residents said they aren't opposed to migrants coming into the neighborhood, but said the five vacant churches would be a better place to house them as needed.

Chicago's migrant population has swelled past 11,000 new arrivals in the last year. Neighborhoods all over the city have waged the same fight as the city has opened at least 31 shelters as of this week, trying to resettle migrants out of police station lobbies.

"Ironically, the programs you are moving out are the programs these migrant children and adolescents will need," said one resident at a community meeting over the new shelter Thursday night.

"I want to be welcoming to them, but I don't want to do it at the sacrifice of our seniors and children," said another resident.

It's a morally divisive discussion for a community with deep, diverse immigrant roots.

"Americans are the ones who go out of their way to help others," said San O of the Southeast Asia Center. "How can you survive without a shelter? What do you do when you don't have a roof, food?"

"The armory is not being shut down, it's being used to help people in need," said Richard Pearlman, Edgewater resident.

Services for senior citizens like daily hot meals will still be open and available at the armory once it becomes a shelter on Tuesday At least 250 migrant children and families will start moving in and the city said they'll reevaluate the situation in six months.

Chicago aldermen and leaders say it's time for the city's congressional delegation to step up with more federal aid to help with migrant housing and integration.

Leaders around the city wonder why the federal government isn't doing more to help.

Fifteenth Ward Ald. Ray Lopez is worried the longer the crisis continues, with migrants unable to legally work, the situation in his ward could worsen. There are close to 300 male and female asylum seekers being sheltered at the Gage Park Field House.

"If there are opportunities for individuals to be tempted to the sins of our neighborhood or sins of our city they may fall victim to that and we need to address immediately," he said.

Lopez has written an open letter to Mayor Brandon Johnson, calling on him to address to situation immediately.

"All these locations run the risk of getting out of control, if we don't get the bad behaviors under control in their infancy," Lopez said.

Other frustrated aldermen also sounded the alarm at Wednesday's city council meeting. Ald. Brendan Reilly said a small number of migrants have been carrying guns, drinking and using drugs outside the shelter in his ward, while Ald. Jeanette Taylor said there have been several problems at the old Wadsworth Elementary School shelter in her neighborhood. They said it's time for Chicago's congressional delegation to step up with more federal aid.

"The fact is the federal government can do more, the resources are limited, and it's difficult to get more resources given Republican control of the House," said U.S. Rep Mike Quigley (D-Chicago).

Quigley said the delegation is pushing President Biden to issue an executive order to expedite work permits so the migrants can get to work immediately.

"I believe the Biden Administration will move in that direction, we have all encouraged him to do it," he said.

Organizations that work directly with migrants, like the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, say work permits are a solution that must happen sooner rather than later.

"Yes, we are a little bit frustrated because we don't know what to do anymore, people are still arriving to Chicago we don't have enough help for them," said case manager Karla Lopez.

Ald. Lopez is calling on the city council, state and federal officials to attack the migrant crisis the same way government treated COVID with an all-hands-on-deck approach.