This week, I signed a letter with several aldermen concerned about different aspects of the migrant crisis in Chicago. While many shelters are operating in a decent and effective manner, others are causing grave management and quality of life concerns among community members and elected officials. Most recently, a five year old, Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero, died while residing a substandard shelter in Pilsen. This is not acceptable and the plan to host, house, and spend funds on the migrant crisis must be spelled out and explained to the public.
While we ask for a city official to be appointed who will manage and accept responsibility for the work, I would take it a step further and require inspectors from the state and federal government to inspect these shelters on a frequent basis to avoid further deaths and illness related to the shelters.
January 24, 2024
Dear Mayor Johnson:
Last November, you issued a policy to evict new-arrival shelter residents from city-run shelters within 60 days. This decision came on the heels of both the finalization of the FY2024 City budget, and the announcement of state and federal efforts to streamline new arrival intake processes and expedite work permit applications. While these efforts to speed up intake and work permits are welcome and would theoretically reduce the City’s reliance on shelters to care for new arrivals, we have grave concerns about the impact of imposing a 60-day limit on people who are relying on shelters for their continued safety. The 60-day eviction policy poses a significant threat to the health and safety of new arrivals. To put it simply: the City should not be in the business of handing out eviction notices. While the 60-day limit has been temporarily extended to avoid the worst of the weather, these extensions do not address the systemic issues that prevent new arrivals from being able to leave shelters and find alternative housing. The City has so far shown itself unable to (1) reduce the flow of new arrivals by either imposing bussing fees or impounding buses of migrants being sent to Chicago; (2) assist the upwards of 11,000 eligible people to apply for expedited work authorization; or (3) help those staying in shelters to find alternative housing options. To stand by the decision to impose 60-day limits on shelters without addressing these systemic issues leaves new arrivals without options for housing or shelter. This situation simply should not be acceptable. The conditions in shelters and landing zones also demand urgent attention, as we continue to hear reports of:
● inadequate food such that shelter residents solicit food outside grocery stores or on the street or are eating food from dumpsters;
● bed bug and rodent infestations; and
● medical issues, including no containment of infectious diseases and failure to provide treatment for persistent medical conditions.
Moreover, shelter contractors continue to rely on volunteers to procure medicine, coats and other warm items for distribution at the landing zone where new arrivals are practically stacked on top of each other, in “warmed” buses and tents. These conditions demand immediate attention and action.
We urge the City to take the following steps: 1. Rescind the 60-day limit on shelter stays; 2. Improve shelter conditions with culturally-appropriate food and timely medical services and including all unhoused people in a non-congregate unified shelter system; 3. Improve and add housing stock, both temporary and permanent, in sufficient quantity for new arrivals and long-time residents—both unhoused and in temporary living situations—by working with State, County and community-level partners and maximizing use of existing City employees; 4. Appoint a chief homelessness officer immediately and empower them to coordinate the administration of items (2) and (3) with the state and federal government.
Signed, Daniel La Spata, 1st Ward Desmon Yancy, 5th Ward Nicole Lee, 11th Ward Julia Ramirez, 12th Ward Matt O’Shea, 19th Ward Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward Ruth Cruz, 30th Ward Felix Cardona, 31st Ward Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward Bill Conway, 34th Ward Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward Andre Vasquez, 40th Ward Bennett Lawson, 44th Ward Matt Martin, 47th Ward Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, 48th Ward Maria Hadden, 49th Ward