Chicago migrants moved out of Woodlawn's old Wadsworth Elementary School after months of controversy

Tuesday, May 14, 2024
Migrants moved out of old South Side elementary school
The Brandon Johnson administration has moved Chicago migrants out of the old Wadsworth Elementary School.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The old Wadsworth Elementary School is empty once again on Tuesday evening.

The longtime vacant Chicago public school was converted into a migrant shelter under former Mayor Lori Lightfoot. This week, the Brandon Johnson administration moved new arrivals to other places, shutting the shelter down.

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"We've been consolidating some of our smaller shelters, and just as part of our overall plan to save taxpayer dollars, bring down the cost of the mission, and Wadsworth was next in line," said Deputy Mayor of Immigrant, Migrant & Refugee Rights Beatriz Ponce de Leo.

Woodlawn residents living near Wadsworth, including a large senior home across the street, are elated that the shelter is closed.

"I'm so happy for the neighborhood that we don't have to endure things that was happening," said Woodlawn resident Genora Stone.

Neighbors complained of noise, loitering and crime. The building was supposed to house 200 new arrivals. At its peak, more than 600 people were living here. But before it opened, residents, along with 20th Ward Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor, were angry that the city spent more than $1 million to renovate the buildings for migrants.

"People wanted to know, 'How are you going to help us?' You put this on us, and now, we are not getting the support we need," said South Side resident Jennifer Maddox.

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Maddox helped organize some protests. Residents blocked buses carrying migrants. The Wadsworth shelter resulted in tension between Black and Latino communities and sparked citywide conversations about how the city prioritizes its resources.

"We are the city that has big shoulders are willing to help, but the resources got taken away," Stone said.

Residents are calling on the city to invest in Wadsworth as a neighborhood community center.

"They need to sit down with this community and stakeholders and figure out what is next for this building that is actually going to support the residents who live here," Maddox said.

But for now, the city says it is keeping all of its city-owned buildings on standby in case it is needed again for a short-term emergency shelter.