CHICAGO (WLS) — The 12th District Chicago Police Station was running out of space, so a local councilor coordinated a plan, and a landlord stepped in, donating empty commercial space in the Pilsen neighborhood to migrants with nowhere to go.
Families, including infants and young children, housed in the space for now, hail from countries such as Peru, Guatemala, Venezuela, Columbia and Nicaragua.
Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez said he was getting calls on Monday and Tuesday about the District 12 police station turning away migrants because the lobby was full, so he started calling stakeholders in the Pilsen community to help provide food and shelter and help move them. .
“We have babies, 3-month-old babies, several minors, children who have been waiting for more than a week for shelter; it is absolutely inhumane what we are witnessing,” the councilor said.
Council members were able to move 70 migrants late Tuesday from the police station to an empty commercial space.
“The city didn't provide any alternative, and they would again be bussed to another police station, so at that point we are reaching out to our community. We are very grateful for the kindness and generosity of the community,” said Sigcho -Lopez, of the 3rd Ward. 25.
Last week, about 100 migrants arrived in Chicago each day. This week the number has doubled.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an emergency order Tuesday, said Chicago was stretched to a breaking point.
The order allows the city to make emergency purchases.
It also allows the city to solicit members of the National Guard from the state, but the mayor is holding that back for now.
Also on Tuesday, a City Council committee approved $51 million in migrant assistance.
Alderman Pat Dowell chairs the Budget and Governance Affairs Committee.
“Clearly there isn't enough money to address the crisis that's going on in this city, getting between 100 and 150 new migrants every day,” Dowell said.
Dowell said he was troubled by the situation and would like to see more help from the federal government and corporations.
Dowell said as of Tuesday, 450 people were living in the lobby of the Chicago police station.
“Sleeping on the police station floor is inhumane, and we have to treat people the way you want to be treated,” he said. “You have to be able to take care of the people who have just arrived as well as the people who are here.”
He said they started a supply drive in the neighborhood to help the new arrivals, as well as struggling Chicagoans.
Meanwhile, a pandemic-era federal policy called Title 42 expires Thursday, which could bring thousands of asylum seekers to Chicago.
Doug Wynne is a building owner who donates his vacant space in the Pilsen community. He said he saw how serious the situation was.
“I was happy to let them borrow the building, but I was like, ‘where's the food?' So I had to go out and buy food. Now social services has started, and it's helping, but the lack of coordination from the FBI to the state from the state to our city is just ridiculous,” Wynne said.
Sigcho-Lopez urged the city to open park district field houses and empty schools.
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However, this choice met with opposition from many city residents.
More beds arrived at a downtown hotel on Wednesday, which is now offering shelter to 1,200 new arrivals, according to a spokesperson for the city's Office of Emergency Management.
Some who live there, who made the treacherous journey from Venezuela, say families share rooms. Others nearby said they were turned away and told to go to the local police station.
The City of Chicago issued a statement Wednesday, saying:
“Chicago continues to welcome new arrivals and meet their immediate needs. This humanitarian crisis calls for collective and swift action, which is why the City has partnered with various City departments, Councilors, community-based organizations, and community leaders to identify sites to serve as temporary rest centers. and temporary shelters to cope with this surge in new arrivals.Since August 31, 2022 the city has hosted 8,596 new arrivals, including 48 who arrived by bus from Texas yesterday.is currently working to relieve migrant numbers at CPD stations and transport them to shelters temporary and resting centers as space becomes available. The Inn of Chicago is being used as a temporary shelter and is currently housing 1,203 new arrivals as of this morning.”