Migrants Chicago: Latino leaders ask for clarity on living conditions for thousands in shelters

Thursday, January 18, 2024
Latino leaders ask for clarity on migrant shelter living conditions
Latino leaders in Chicago are asking the city for clarity on what living conditions are like in migrant shelters in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Latino leaders in Chicago are asking the city for clarity on what living conditions are like in migrant shelters in Chicago.

There are dozens of them, housing thousands of asylum seekers from the border.

In recent weeks, there have been complaints about dirty bathrooms and cockroach infestations.

Slightly warmer weather Thursday made it more tolerable for migrants getting meals outside the city's largest shelter.

A meeting Thursday was held virtually, and it lasted about an hour. Members of City Council's Latino caucus met with the mayor and the deputy mayor of immigration to discuss oversight of migrant shelters and the need to improve conditions.

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who is a member of the Latino caucus, was in the meeting Thursday morning.

"We are also asking the city to be able to communicate with us so we know the challenges, the concerns, the conditions and the needs to we can advocate for dignified conditions," Ald. Sigcho-Lopez said.

Following the meeting, the mayor's office promised Sigcho-Lopez bi-weekly meetings to give him detailed reports about the shelter. Shortly after the shelter opened last fall, complaints about the lack of bathrooms and an insect infestation were brought the city's attention. However, not all alderpersons were informed.

"Those are all challenges that any administration is going to make mistakes on," said Ald. Andre Vasquez, Committee on Immigration and Refugee Rights Chairman. "We want to make sure there is improvement."

Right now, there are more than 14,000 new arrivals from the southern border staying in city shelters.

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Several migrants have spoken up about illnesses spreading in some of the shelters along with unsanitary living conditions.

Last month, a 5-year-old boy became ill at a shelter in Pilsen and died. Several other residents there were hospitalized in the days after the child's death.

The Pilsen shelter was originally planned to house 1,000 new arrivals. It now holds 2,500.

Because city money for migrants is drying up, Mayor Brandon Johnson put a hold on opening new shelters, and there are discussions on downsizing current ones.

"If you are downscaling or right sizing, and you are losing beds, those people are going to end up on the street," Ald. Vasquez said. "It's actually going to cost the city more."

Vasquez has proposed unifying a shelter system to include migrants and the homeless.

"Instead of talking about new arrival funds, talk about homelessness funds to create a system that works no matter who you are," Vasquez said.

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"City alone cannot sustain these operations without state and federal funding. That became clear, and we're also asking as a city to be able to communicate with us so that we not only know the challenges, the concerns, the conditions but also the needs so that we can also advocate, so that we can get dignified conditions," Sigcho-Lopez said.

The city has extended its 60-day maximum shelter stay policy until Feb. 1.

The policy was supposed to go into effect this month. The deadline has been delayed twice due to extreme weather, according to city officials.

In the meantime, in the quest for more migrant funding, the Latino Caucus has demanded better communication and coordination between the city, state and federal government.