Shelter for migrants in families opens at St. Bartholomew Church in Portage Park

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team and Eric Horng WLS logo
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Shelter for migrants in families opens at NW Side church
The plan is to house up to 350 Chicago migrants, in families, at little or no taxpayer expense at the convent and the former St. Bartholomew School.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- City and county leaders attended a welcome party on Tuesday for asylum-seekers who have a new home in a Portage Park shelter.

"You are part of the future of the city of Chicago, and you are not alone, because we pride ourselves of being an open and welcoming city," said Mayor Brandon Johnson.

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For the last three weeks, dozens of migrants have been living in a formerly vacant convent at St. Bartholomew Church, which merged with two other parishes three years ago.

"It's not just about having a home and having a hot meal. It's about making us whole as humans," said 8th District Cook County Commissioner Anthony Quezada.

At that convent and in the former St. Bartholomew School, there are plans to house up to 350 migrants, all in families, at little or no taxpayer expense.

After months of negotiations, the Archdiocese of Chicago is leasing the two buildings to the city at no cost. The city is, in turn, subleasing the properties to the Zakat Foundation, a Bridgeview-based international humanitarian organization that will staff and operate the shelters with the help of donors.

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The group's executive director is a former refugee from Turkey.

"How can you not feel, you know, a little bit mercy, compassion for these people?" said Zakat Foundation of America Executive Director Halil Demir.

This all comes as migrant demand for shelters has slowly been easing.

In the past month, the number of asylum-seekers in shelters has fallen 12%, and the number awaiting placement in shelters is down 6%.

And President Joe Biden's executive action last week, designed to limit the number of people seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border, is expected to further ease the flow of migrants to Chicago.