Tempers flare at community meeting as crews erect migrant shelter in Little Village

ByLiz Nagy and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Tempers flare at meeting as crews erect migrant shelter on SW Side
As the Chicago migrant crisis continues, residents voiced their concerns about a shelter being built at an old Little Village CVS at 26th and Pulaski.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Behind the walls of a long-vacant Little Village CVS, crews have been scrambling to stand up yet another shelter for newly-arrived migrant children and families.

More than 13,700 migrants are living in ones just like it across the city. This one is a collaboration.

"The state of Illinois will be funding. The city of Chicago will be operating it, however, and will be part of the city of Chicago system," said 22nd Ward Ald. Mike Rodriguez.

The city said as many as 230 migrants will sleep and live inside the brick and mortar portion of the facility. Outside, additional space will provide room for things like recreation, legal services and medical aid.

The new large space home is a temporary stop gap for migrants that sits squarely in the heart of a community of people with stories similar to their own.

On Monday night, Rodriguez hosted a community meeting at Lawndale High School to update residents on the plans.

"I think I started class with two students, new arrivals, now ballooned to 25," said Saul Garcia, a teacher.

SEE ALSO | Legal aid clinic helps Venezuelan migrants apply for temporary protected status, work authorization

Still, people who live near 26th and Pulaski have their complaints.

"You should have told us before you did this," one speaker said.

"Everyone is here has failed us," another added.

"Twenty-Sixth Street looks terrible. It's the new skid row," another speaker said.

The shelter is the city's earliest hope for housing more than 500 migrants and counting still arriving at police stations.

READ MORE | 'Rogue' buses are trying to dump migrants in Cicero and leave to avoid Chicago fines

The skeleton of the Brighton Park base camp has disappeared after the state declared the site too potentially toxic for people to live on.

There are no active plans to build another migrant base camp in Chicago after the Brighton Park project was shut down, the city said. Another possible mass tent camp at 115th and Halsted is still untouched, and may stay that way.

"At this moment, we don't have a firm commitment to open a base camp. It's still an option on the table, and we will continue to explore it," said Deputy Mayor for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Beatriz Ponce de Leon.

The number of migrants still awaiting shelter has come down drastically from the height of the crisis. Right now, 660 migrants are awaiting placement, 461 are at police stations and 199 are at O'Hare.

More than 25,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott starting busing them here more than a year ago.

All of it is emblematic of a continuing humanitarian crisis that has is crashing into the city's coldest months without a permanent solution.

SEE ALSO | Others step up to house Chicago migrants after base camp plan scuttled, Pritzker defends decision