Migrants sent to Chicago from Texas move into former Woodlawn elementary school, officials say

ByEvelyn Holmes, Eric Horng, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Friday, February 3, 2023
Migrants sent to Chicago move into former Woodlawn elementary school
Chicago migrants were met with resistance as they moved into the former Wadsworth Elementary School in Woodlawn Thursday, officials said

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There was resistance Thursday as the relocation of migrants to Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood began.

Chicago officials confirmed that migrants would be moving into the former Wadsworth Elementary School in the Woodlawn neighborhood today.

Officials said it was communicated to residents and elected officials Wednesday evening that the move-in would happen Thursday.

The number of migrants has yet to be determined.

Two men temporarily blocked a CTA bus they believe was carrying migrants to the former grade school-turned-shelter. They said Chicago police told them the bus was transporting staff.

"They wasn't transparent with the residents in the community, so we are not going to be transparent with them. They don't want to work with us. We're not working with them," said Andrew Smith, Woodlawn resident and 20th Ward aldermanic candidate.

"They keep hiding everything," said Luis Cardona, Woodlawn resident.

Officials said they're committed to working with local and community organizations.

SEE ALSO | Chicago school to be used as temporary shelter for migrants, mayor's office confirms

The facility's opening was delayed because of neighborhood opposition. It is expected to house 250 single men and women to start, and be open for the next two years.

"I think it's a good idea. If it's not being used, use it for something. Instead of seeing them all out here on the street," said resident Brandon Cortreas.

Prior to Thursday, confusion had continued over Chicago's plans to move migrants into the former elementary school.

Still, some homeowners and long-time residents complain that despite three community meetings, they had very little say-so about bringing migrants here.

"It's already dangerous here. Why would you bring them over here throw them in a bowl of soup?" said Leonard Chamberlain, Woodlawn resident.

RELATED | Woodlawn residents question plans to house migrants at vacant CPS building

"You put them here with no compassion, no empathy," said resident Jennie Newsome.

The opening of the Wadsworth location is part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot's response to thousands of migrants being from Texas and other places since 2022, which has overwhelmed Chicago's shelter system.

20th Ward Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor said while most empathize with the migrants' plight, there's concern that their presence takes much-needed resources from the community, which is already struggling.

"How are we helping the people in our own communities you're supposed to take care of first? We're a sanctuary city, but we've got to be a sanctuary city for all," she said.

Clergy at Concord Missionary Baptist Church prepared Thursday night to welcome the migrants with a bilingual service. The church is also offering to share its kitchen, internet resources, and community room for English classes.

"Hospitality is a Christian virtue, you know, and that's what we believe that Christ would do in this situation. In fact, Christ was a migrant," said Rev. Kenneth D. Phelps.

Ald. Taylor is calling on the city to provide more housing resources for Woodlawn residents but says she's received no commitments.