Wright College meeting to discuss housing for up to 400 migrants on Dunning campus gets heated

Eric Horng Image
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Residents, officials clash over migrant housing at NW Side college
A standing-room-only meeting over whether a college campus on Chicago's Northwest Side should be used for housing migrants during the summer became heated Tuesday night.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A standing-room only meeting on the Northwest Side became heated as Dunning residents and city officials clashed over plans to use Wilbur Wright College as a temporary respite center for migrants during the summer.

The meeting drew hundreds of residents who were required to show ID to prove they live nearby. Dozens of neighbors signed up to speak, and they didn't hold back.

"We love people, but this is an absolute slap in the face to those who came here legally," said one woman in attendance.

Wilbur Wright College is being considered as one of the centers to provide temporarily housing for migrants.

"This is another chapter in Chicago's long history of immigration, whether it was the Italians, the Poles, whether it-" said Jesus Del Toro of the City of Chicago Office of New Americans before he was booed down.

The college is the latest target of a city desperately seeking out underutilized buildings where migrants, now sleeping on police stations all across Chicago, can be safely housed until more stable shelter space opens up. Wilbur Wright could see migrants as early as this weekend.

"Why don't we put them in Lincoln Park? Why don't we put them on the North Shore where they say hey, let's help out, let's help out?" said Frank Coconate, resident.

"We have space. And we are a community college. We always talk about putting the community in community college," said Sydney Hart, Wilbur Wright College professor.

Alderman Nick Sposato, who represents the 38th Ward, said as many as 400 people could be housed at that college campus this summer.

"It's not right. It's not right to them, and it's not right to the police officers. So, right now, this is kind of a win-win. It's a win to get them off the floors of the police stations, and it's a win for the police officers to have them out of there," said 38th Ward Alderman Nick Sposato.

This meeting is the latest heated community meeting to be held over the issue of migrants. Earlier this month South Shore residents sued the city to block migrants from being housed at the former South Shore High school.

The city said it has looked at hundreds of locations.

"I want to be clear!" said Chicago City College Chancellor Juan Salgado over boos. "We raised our hand when we housed migrants at Truman College, and we raised our hand this time around!"

At Wednesday's city council meeting, which is the first with Mayor Brandon Johnson presiding, more than $50 million is expected to be approved for the migrant crisis. That money is only expected to last through June 30.