Migrant crisis: Chicago property owner opens vacant buildings to house nearly 500 asylum seekers

Leah Hope Image
Friday, January 26, 2024
Chicago property owner opens buildings to house migrants
Chicago property owner Chris Amatore has opened his vacant residential buildings to help house asylum seekers amid the migrant crisis.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago has been struggling to find housing for migrants arriving in the city.

One property owner is opening up his buildings, letting hundreds of asylum seekers live rent-free.

Chris Amatore, a property manager and real estate investor, is providing beds and food, and paying for it all himself.

Food was delivered Thursday to the families staying in a South Shore building. In recent days, 57 Venezuelans moved in to the building on South Essex, according to Amatore, who said he owns the building.

"I just decided I got the heat on, I got gas and electric, let's fill them in," Amatore said. "We'll worry about the details later."

Over the last nine days, Amatore said he felt moved to offer shelter in his vacant apartments after visiting the city's landing center and a shelter for new arrivals.

"I saw five-year-olds with jackets on the streets," Amatore said. "I'm like, it's going to be negative 14, what's going on?"

He, his family and a couple of volunteers have taken in 448 adults and children at 15 of his residential buildings.

RELATED | Mayor Brandon Johnson defends handling of Chicago migrant crisis

Some neighbors posted video of the building on Essex, alleging people were breaking into the building and that the building was not safe.

Amatore said there was no break-in on Essex.

Veronica Cotton Cotton is a life long South Shore resident and new business owner, but she shared she and her sons were homeless a couple of years ago, and they didn't get the help they needed.

"It's frustrating," Cotton said. "I'm not saying it's not right to help them, but it's not right for others not to get help as well."

Amatore acknowledged his impromptu efforts to help new arrivals was not the the most organized, but he wanted to do something.

"I decided to submit my free will and do God's plan," Amatore said. "I feel like I'm going to keep doing what's right, and whereever the chips fall, that's not up to me."

Amatore challenged other building owners to step up during the migrant crisis.