Amundsen Park fieldhouse will not be used as a Chicago migrant shelter

Thursday, November 30, 2023
Amundsen Park fieldhouse will not be used as a Chicago migrant shelter
Chicago's Amundsen Park fieldhouse will not be used to house migrants as the city continues to build a camp inn Brighton Park.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A park district fieldhouse in Chicago won't become a shelter for migrants after all.

People who live in the Galewood community fought hard against the loss of programming and space at the Amundsen fieldhouse.

The city says it's making remarkable progress is finding shelter for migrants.

There is elation, but also a great deal of anger and mistrust from folks in the community and that's because even while the plans to open a migrant shelter were put on hold back in early October, all park activities have been suspended since then.

RELATED: Migrants in Chicago: Construction begins for Brighton Park migrant camp

"You can't just go anywhere to do football and cheerleading. You have to have a park that is accessible, has a field to accommodate that," said Gerald Harris, Windy City Dolphins.

Officials said the programming, including use of the park district's installations, will now return as soon as next week.

It was already two months ago that 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro first informed people here that the Mayor Brandon Johnson's office was planning to use Amundsen Park as a migrant shelter that would house up to 200 migrants for a six-month period.

Opposition was such that those plans were nearly immediately shelved. But it wasn't until Wednesday that the alderman put out a new statement letting people know that staff will return to the fieldhouse on Monday with registration for winter activities to start shortly thereafter.

That of course is great news for residents, who despite seeing some of the programming re-directed elsewhere, were not always able to take advantage of it as easily.

"The city did a really terrible job at handling this," Donald Glover, president of the Amundsen Park Advisory Council, said. "They held our community and our park hostage for almost 60 days. We couldn't use the park. Our kids couldn't use it, our seniors couldn't use it and they could have been more transparent. Hopefully in the future they will include rather than the exclude people."

"Our senior program had to stop," Galewood resident Linda Johnson said. Some of the seniors had to go to different places. They wind up doing a lot of activities at home... the seniors wind up feeling like they were in a pandemic all over again and that was not fair to them at all."

At the same time work on more new housing for migrants is underway.

After weeks of opposition, construction has now started on a migrant base camp in Brighton Park.

RELATED: Migrants in Chicago: Construction begins for Brighton Park migrant camp

Mayor Brandon Johnson has says he wants the space to be up and running by mid-December.

And the plan to move migrants out of police stations and into churches is now underway. Eighty migrants were moved from the 5th District Police Station in Pullman to four churches.

There, the asylum seekers will have a place to sleep, food, and learn about work opportunities.

"The help that the church is giving us for me, is the best thing that could have happened to us during these circumstances," migrant Jeily Rosa Ortiz Ramos said. "I got sick due to the cold weather since I was sleeping on a cold floor and the weather affected me."

Seventeen churches across the city are transforming into small 60-day shelters, funded by private donations through the city's new Unity Initiative.

When complete, that massive winterized tent camp in Brighton Park will shelter 2,000 migrants.

Mayor Johnson's administration, the Chicago Park District and 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro issued a joint statement saying, "The City of Chicago has been working diligently to provide temporary shelter and emergency assistance for more than 23,200 asylum seekers who have been bussed or flown to Chicago from other states since August 2022.

"As part of this humanitarian crisis, the City opened 25 temporary shelters across Chicago, including five Chicago Park District locations. With the decompression of 10 of the 21 Chicago Police Department district locations, significant reduction in the number of new arrivals sleeping on police station floors, outdoors and at O'Hare and Midway airports, and the imminent addition of significant new shelter space, including a faith-based initiative led by Pastor John Zayas at Grace and Peace Church and other clergy, Amundsen Park is no longer in consideration for a potential shelter location and programming will resume Monday, December 4.

"The City continues to evaluate additional shelter capacity on an ongoing basis and will continue to provide updates as necessary."