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Monday, May 29, 2023

Volunteers step up to help migrants staying at Chicago police stations

CHICAGO — The City of Chicago is continuing its search to find a solution for migrants without shelter.

Now, volunteers are stepping up to provide resources to those in need.

The Chicago Police Department’s 12th District is still being used as a temporary shelter as the city looks for bigger facilities to convert them into respite centers.

One woman, who made the long journey from Venezuela, has been at the police station for almost two weeks.

She said the conditions aren’t ideal but feels fortunate that it’s safe and is trying to look at the bigger picture.

“To have the possibility to have legal documents that will allow me to be part of this community and country,” she said. “I also have dreams of owning a house, having a family and creating a beautiful future. I want to go to school and work too.”

She is just one of about 30 migrants sleeping in the lobby of the police station.

A volunteer said conditions aren’t the best or the healthiest.

Benito Pinal said sometimes migrants are eating expired food or catching infections. He said he does his best to provide them with basic supplies, but it has been difficult to keep up with the influx of migrants and have little to no resources or guidance from the city.

He was at first helping them with Spanish translations but felt inclined to do more after seeing some disturbing situations.

“We had a bus drop them off, some individuals with no blankets or anything,” Pinal said. “They have to sleep on the floor with no kind of cushion or anything. It’s just so sad.”

There were attempts to allocate city funding to help the newly arrived migrants in Chicago.

But three alderpeople blocked those efforts during Wednesday’s city council meeting.

According to Mary May with the Office of Emergency Management and Communication, of the 10,000 migrants who are in the city, there are more than 41,000 staying in shelters.

“The City of Chicago is in the midst of a national humanitarian crisis that requires collective responsibility and swift humane action to provide safe spaces for the current increase of newly arrived refugees and immigrants seeking asylum,” May said in a statement. “Our dual priorities include coordinated efforts to prioritize sheltering unhoused Chicagoans while also opening suitable respite and shelter space for new arrivals. As we collaborate with our partners to identify long-term solutions, we will continue to engage in planning and communication efforts with residents to ensure the continuity of services and limited disruption of programming at public facilities.”

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