Migrants in Chicago: Crews begin construction of Brighton Park migrant camp

Thursday, November 30, 2023
Crews begin construction of Brighton Park migrant camp
Construction crews arrived to work on the Chicago migrant base camp in Brighton Park Wednesday. By afternoon, framing was erected.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After six weeks of speculation and controversy, construction has officially begun in the city's first migrant tent camp in Brighton Park.

Within a few hours Wednesday morning the base camp started to take shape, with framing for the first structures going up.

Once the winterized base camp is complete, it could house anywhere from 500 to 2,000 migrants. The mayor's office telling us framing of one to two of the structures will take place Wednesday.

The camp will have separate living, dining and bathroom facilities. The camp itself is being funded not by the city, but by the state.

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It will be run in conjunction with several philanthropic partners whose job it will be to help arriving migrants navigate through the immediate emergency on their way to independent living, with the city recently imposing new guidelines limiting migrants to 60-day stays within the shelter system.

The site has been subject to a tremendous amount of controversy. Like they have been nearly on a daily basis for the last six weeks, residents of the immediate area were out once again to speak out against what they believe will be a drain on the community's already limited resources.

"We ask our politicians, our representatives. We all know they don't come here. They're not talking to us," said resident Richard Zupkus. "I beg, please, talk to us. If you're going to force this upon us just be honest so we can work it out. We do have concerns."

Former longtime 12th Ward alderman and current Cook County Commissioner George Cardenas sent a letter to Mayor Brandon Johnson asking City Hall to allay residents' worries.

"I think people are open to receiving information and making their mind up about whether it's good or not. But the less you provide the more questions are begotten," he said.

There are also long-standing environmental concerns regarding this land, which have been only recently disclosed. Officials, however, said checks are ongoing and no one will be moving in until all remediation is complete.

"Environmentally that site was not for residential use. It was not to build a school. I wanted to put a school there many many years ago, back in 2008-2009 and we had to put it on 38th and St. Louis," Cardenas said.

Details regarding environmental remediation will be provided this week. Again, common mitigation strategies are ongoing and anticipated for completion by the end of this week, weather permitting.

The city and state said they hope the camp will be up and running, along with a second, smaller, brick and mortar shelter in Little Village, as of mid-December.