Morgan Park residents raise concerns over city's plans for migrant shelter at vacant lot

Maher Kawash Image
Monday, October 30, 2023
Residents concerned about plans for migrant shelter on Far South Side
Morgan Park residents raised concerns over the city's plan to house migrants in Chicago at 115th and Halsted.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Read the latest on the proposed Morgan Park migrant shelter here.

Residents in Chicago's Morgan Park neighborhood have been making their concerns known on Sunday as the city discusses a plan to create a migrant shelter there.

There's certainly concern from some people living on the Far South Side as they say the city has failed to provide critical resources to the community before proposing a migrant shelter near the northwest corner of 115th and Halsted.

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That's where some of the residents gathered on Sunday, making their voices heard in the old Jewel parking lot.

"The fact is, in the Roseland community, there's crime, violence, gangs. It's through the roof here," said community activist Patrick Gibbons. "And, we need to protect our own people before we take care of people from the outside."

The proposed plan for the migrant shelter there is part of Mayor Brandon Johnson's hopes to offer a first stop for 1,000 incoming migrants. It would include massive heated tents.

The latest numbers from the city show over 3,000 migrants are waiting to be placed in shelters. Most of them are sleeping outside Chicago police districts, with new buses arriving every day.

But, the people living in Morgan Park say they want the city to provide critical resources for current residents, echoing the same message people have had in other neighborhoods that are being discussed as shelter options.

"The people here in the community, they're afraid they're going to lose jobs. They're afraid there won't be shelter for the homeless. And so, this is a big thing for this community," said Pastor Anthony Wilson. "I don't oppose migrants or foreigners. I'm not against that, but the citizens of Chicago come first."

Previously, 21st Ward Alderman Ronnie Mosley has said he's open to the idea of tent base camps, but wanted to get more feedback from the community.

Adding to residents frustration is the lack of information, they say, on progress being made to redevelop the same lot into new housing and retail space called the Morgan Park Commons. The city shared these renderings last year.

The people at today's protest said Mosley should focus on projects like that instead of this shelter.

"How can he protect people coming from the outside if he's not protecting his own people?" Gibbons said.

READ MORE | Residents concerned about plans to turn Brighton Park lot into migrant 'base camp'

Mosley has previously explained to his residents that $33 million in new federal funding can only be used toward migrant living costs.

The mayor is asking for around $200 million in the city's next budget to help cover the cost, which is about $5.6 million a month.

The committee on housing and real estate is expected to vote Monday on the city's proposal to buy the lot for a migrant shelter.

Mosley released a statement early Monday that said:

"I'm highly disappointed by the City's intention to move forward with plans to erect a temporary asylum-seeking shelter on 115th and Halsted, despite community concerns. Last month, after our community expressed multiple concerns about this shelter, I co-sponsored ordinances that addressed these concerns and advocated for Aldermen to receive a 30-day notice of intentions to house migrants in their communities. Unfortunately, those have not yet passed.

"The 21st Ward will not tolerate the prioritization of a crisis over our needs and voices! Here is what I'm demanding from this administration. We need a full commitment to break ground on the Morgan Park Commons housing development in 2024 at the same site of the proposed shelter. I am also demanding support to complete the Beverly Ridge housing development and the capital improvements required at Julian High School and investments in the beautification of our ward.

"The administration says we can service Chicagoans and Asylum-Seekers in need. Consequently, I am calling for the 21st Ward to have a temporary shelter for Chicagoans so residents of this community can become more housing secure.

"Alongside these commitments to our community, it is still imperative that the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois continue to press the federal government for the necessary emergency resources to assist in this crisis. It's painful to know that there are millions of federal dollars and resources available but not given, forcing our city to attempt to solve a nationwide issue with strained resources.

"There are still many questions about safety, timelines, and care for our own residents that have not been answered. The 21st Ward deserves answers to these questions, and I will continue to fight for a true commitment to and investment in our community from this administration."