Oak Park church spending thousands to help migrants in Chicago

Jessica D'Onofrio Image
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Oak Park church spending thousands to help Chicago migrants
An Oak Park church is spending thousands to help migrants in Chicago. One man from Venezuela said it's the only way his family can get clean.

OAK PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- A west suburban church is calling on others to help after spending thousands of dollars in recent weeks to help migrants.

The Parish of St. Catherine-St. Lucy and St. Giles in Oak Park said they've opened up their doors for migrants to shower, dress and eat, and the bills have skyrocketed.

The demand was high Tuesday morning, and it's only growing.

ABC7 Chicago got a closer look inside the effort.

Organizers said more suburbs need to step up: The line of families is long on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

It's when the Catholic parishes of Oak Park open their doors at the former rectory of St. Catherine-St. Lucy Parish for migrants to take a hot shower.

They also serve breakfast, and give asylum seekers the opportunity to select from piles of donated clothes.

Celine Woznica is organizing the effort.

"We reached up to about 150 people coming. I mean to the point where we had to enact crowd control," Woznica said.

The asylum seekers walk just a few blocks from Chicago to get to the rectory in Oak Park.

A man from Venezuela named Manuel is among them. He wants to protect his identity.

SEE ALSO: Coalition demands Oak Park step up to help Chicago migrants: 'Our borders are porous'

He has been sleeping in a tent outside the Austin police station with his wife and three children.

He said he waits for Tuesdays and Thursdays a lot since he's been in the area. He looks forward to this because they are the only days his family can get clean.

While the migrant crisis grows in Chicago, at a community level in suburbs like Oak Park, people are reaching out.

But funding remains an issue.

These shower days mean water bills, which used to be in the hundreds, have skyrocketed to close to $10,000.

"You can see this is wonderful, but it's not sustainable, by no means, and we are over capacity," Woznica said.

The village of Oak Park has been discussing ways to pitch in with resources as a good neighbor.

Susan Charrette is volunteering on shower days.

She works with children who come through.

She believes more suburbs need to step up.

"I agree that it needs to be spread out because Chicago and New York cannot address this problem, so I think the suburbs are a part of it, but honestly I think the neighboring states need to step up as well," Charrette said.

The church is asking the village of Oak Park for assistance.

The village is trying to figure out how to free up grant money to do that.