Mayor Johnson pulling proposal to open new Chicago migrant shelter on South Side

Mayor's office wanted to move 900 migrants from Loop shelter to new location

Sarah Schulte Image
Monday, May 6, 2024
Mayor pulling proposal to open new Chicago migrant shelter on S. Side
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson is pulling a proposal to build a new migrant shelter on Canal Street on the city's South Side.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Brandon Johnson is pulling his proposal to open a new migrant shelter in the city's 11th Ward.

The alderwoman who represents the area said it was a bad idea from the beginning.

A large empty building nestled between two sets of railroad tracks in an 11th Ward industrial area on the South Side was under consideration to house migrants.

Last week, the Johnson administration informed Alderman Nicole Lee the plan was to move 900 new arrivals out of the Standard Club in the Loop into a new location

"In our initial conversion, there was mention of the DNC. And, like, the timing of it all felt a little odd to me. I don't, first of all, I don't think that we should be moving people to hide them. I hope that's not what the actual case is," Lee said.

Ald. Lee immediately objected to the location, emphasizing the building at 3951 S. Canal St. was never on her list of suggested shelters in her ward.

"I didn't think that it was suitable or safe to house people," Lee said.

In addition, Lee said the owners of the building were never contacted by the mayor's office about leasing the building.

Following the controversy, the Johnson administration decided to scrap their plans to move migrants to the location.

"I would just say that, you know, we were operating through a property broker. They were operating through a broker. And, so, apparently, there's just a distinction in terms of how they wanted to proceed," said Christina Pacione-Zayas, the mayor's chief of staff.

While the building is no longer being considered, the Johnson administration wants to move people out of the Standard Club.

The mayor's chief of staff denied transitioning the migrants out of the downtown building has anything to do with the Democratic National Convention.

"A lot of our shelters are actually nearby the DNC footprint. This was just really trying to address a unique situation, so that we can find a solution that was suitable for what we needed in terms of emergency temporary shelter," Pacione-Zayas said.

As of Monday, there are close to 8,000 new arrivals living in 17 city shelters. While arriving buses have slowed down, close to 80 are awaiting shelter placements at the landing zone.

Ald. Lee is grateful the city pulled its plans to move migrants to the Canal building. She said her office received lots of pushback from residents. Many were concerned an industrial location was not safe.