Shelter and Security: Perspectives of Asylum-Seeking Migrants and Neighbors in Chicago

The arrival of tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Chicago, from 2022 to date, has caused a humanitarian crisis that prompted City and State authorities to establish shelters in buildings and public parks to provide a roof for these migrants, largely from Venezuela. The arrival of these persons, who traveled through all of Central America and Mexico on a dangerous journey and, after crossing the border, were brought to Chicago on buses chartered by the Texas government (in a politically charged action), generated notable demonstrations of solidarity and citizen generosity but also complaints from people concerned about the loss of certain services or the use of resources that could be used to meet the needs of the residents. There was also fear of a possible increase in insecurity in the city and discomfort originating from the perception that these recent migrants were granted support that has never been given to undocumented individuals who have been in Chicago for decades. To offer an overview of the community security implications of this crisis, the humanitarian efforts to provide care to asylum seekers, and the various voices of Chicago residents on this matter, La Raza published reports between May 2023 and February 2024

Some of the Venezuelan migrants who will be housed at Broadway Armory Park in Edgewater. (Belhú Sanabria / La Raza)

Some of the Venezuelan migrants who will be housed at Broadway Armory Park in Edgewater. (Belhú Sanabria / La Raza) Crédito: Impremedia


Organization in Pilsen that promotes the cannabis industry opens a temporary shelter for migrants

NDICA receives funds from recreational marijuana taxes to develop programs to prevent violence and, given the humanitarian crisis, has become a refuge for asylum seekers

Dozens of people who slept on the floor of Chicago police stations moved to the facilities of a non-profit organization in Pilsen that promotes the cannabis industry and develops programs to prevent violence.

Now, it has temporarily become a migrant shelter. The National Diversity and Inclusion Cannabis Alliance (NDICA) states that its mission is to create a more equitable cannabis industry to reduce barriers that contribute to the lack of representation of people most affected by the war on drugs.

NDICA is a non-profit organization that began operations in California in 2016 and in Pilsen, Chicago, in February 2023.

Juan Aguirre, NDICA project manager, said his organization receives funding from the taxes of recreational cannabis sales in both California and Illinois to develop programs aimed at preventing violence. According to Aguirre, who is a nurse, NDICA was the first non-profit organization focused on the cannabis industry in California and Illinois that received state money to assist, with lawyers paid by that agency, people with criminal records, whom they help to find employment. They also provide assistance to apply for a license to open a dispensary. “We help people with criminal records, except those who abuse children and animals, and we can help people who were arrested for cannabis,” added Aguirre.

Now, at least 128 immigrants who arrived from Texas to Chicago have been temporarily housed at the organization’s headquarters in Pilsen. The asylum seekers, mostly Venezuelans, have access to bathrooms and showers, sleep on mattresses, and also receive donated food and free haircuts. They even have a dining room with a small television on-site.

All this effort is being led not by the authorities but by volunteers. Most migrants housed at the NDICA facilities in Pilsen had been sleeping on the floor of police stations in Districts 1, 8, 10, and 12 due to the lack of temporary shelters or resting places in Chicago.

The volunteers operating this shelter say they can provide refuge until the municipal, state, and federal governments can provide support and resources to improve these migrants’ conditions. More than 8,000 immigrants have been transported by bus and planes from Texas to Chicago since last August.

Juan Aguirre mentioned that, as police stations were filled with migrants sleeping on the floor, the initiative to condition the NDICA building to house the newcomers arose. He emphasizes that the goal is to create a safe space for asylum seekers. District 25th Alderman, Byron Sigcho López, helps organize the volunteers at this emergency shelter located at 2035 S. Racine Ave. in the Pilsen neighborhood.

More spaces and volunteers are needed

“At NDICA, we are securing more services, now we are at capacity because we do not have more people to be taking care of the area, we need more volunteers,” Aguirre said in an interview with La Raza.

The Pilsen pantry provides the food, and several of its volunteers help in the shelter, while Dr. Evelyn Figueroa is in charge of medical evaluations, and Aguirre supports her as a nurse.

The three-story building at 2035 S. Racine Ave. was empty for five years and was previously a manufacturing business. Now it is the headquarters of NDICA, an organization that promotes the cannabis industry.

When asked about the reaction of the Pilsen community regarding the temporary shelter, Aguirre said he has not seen anyone protesting or coming to the place to say something bad. “Everyone who comes here is donating money, clothes, food, or coming to participate as volunteers, and those who live in this area tell us that we are doing a very good thing.”

Aguirre emphasized that more spaces are needed in Pilsen, La Villita, Brighton Park, McKinley Park, and certain areas to the north of Chicago with a large Latino population, like Logan Square and Belmont Cragin. “When there are Latinos and they see their mother in the migrants or see themselves reflected in the migrants, they come to support and help with all their heart.”

Due to the economic crisis in Venezuela, Jorge Bolívar, 23 years old, decided to migrate to Ecuador in 2017. The crime, he told the young man, forced him to leave that South American country in 2023 in search of greater security and a better future.

The man claimed he was also being threatened and extorted. Bolívar said he worked in an Ecuadorian port where there were many organized narcotic gangs. Bolívar had a fast-food business and recounted that robbers demanded money in exchange for security and not to rob him. “I filed a complaint in Ecuador about those threats I received, I had a fast-food business, the criminals asked me for money for security and in exchange for not robbing. That problem motivated me to leave Ecuador and also the whole issue of the migratory wave, of better opportunities in the United States and more security than in South America.”

Bolívar made the journey with his wife, stepson, and another family member. They arrived from Texas to Chicago by plane and were sleeping at the Police District 1 station for eight days before arriving at NDICA, where they are currently sheltered.

Bolívar entered the United States seeking asylum and began the process through the CBP One application. CBP One is a mobile app used to access a variety of services from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “At the [police] station we only had a bathroom, but here we are more comfortable, we receive more help from community people through the organizers who facilitate what is within their reach, like food and shelter, which is very important to not be on the street. In my case, I wish to have a job where I know I will earn money to pay rent, to move forward,” Bolívar explained in an interview with La Raza.

Luz Castro arrived with her husband from Denver to Chicago by bus. They had a difficult journey through the dangerous Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama and at the border with Mexico, she said. “The Darien Gap was a difficult journey because you see so many things, we spent nine days walking. One is human, you get desperate, afraid of everything, but nevertheless, God was always with us and thank God we are here.”

Castro, 23 years old, hopes to settle in Chicago and find a job. “I would like, if given the opportunity, to study. I don’t have children but I do have a family, my mom and my little brother. I’ve always liked to help so they don’t need anything. Venezuela is a country that is bad economically and in every sense, I would like them to have a better life.”

If the plan to establish ‘base camps’ in some areas of the city materializes, hundreds of migrants sleeping in tents or police stations would be moved to these temporary shelters. (Belhú Sanabria / La Raza)
Crédito: Impremedia


Migrants move from police stations to a rest center in Gage Park

So far, to provide asylum seekers with security and services, the City of Chicago has provided shelters for more than 11,000 migrants, including men, women, and children

After sleeping several days at police stations, dozens of migrants have a new home at the Gage Park field house, operated by the Chicago Park District.

City officials first announced that the migrants would move to this rest center on July 1, but the move started the previous weekend. The Gage Park field house is located at 2411 W. 55th St. in the southwest Chicago neighborhood of Gage Park.

About 300 asylum seekers who arrived from Texas to Chicago since August and, due to the lack of a temporary shelter, were sleeping in police stations, are expected to settle in the site. The center has a dining area, spaces for hygiene, activity rooms, and other facilities for sanitary, cultural, and educational use.

So far, the city has provided shelters for more than 11,000 migrants, including men, women, and children. But some residents of the neighborhood are upset and worried about their new neighbors. Their frustration is due to the loss of access to the programs provided in that park. The annoyance of some neighbors is also because, they say, resources and money have been quickly available for the newcomers, but not for taxpayers or the poor or homeless residents of Chicago.

Carmen Ugarte and María Aguirre said they reside in the Gage Park area and were initially concerned about the idea of only men living in the field house. Now that they also see women outside the place, they feel safer. However, the activities that were carried out in that field house have already been transferred to other facilities, including a new field house four blocks away from Gage Park.

The Gage Park field house is one of 21 Park District facilities offering programs for people with special needs. And the day camps that took place there are now being held at the field houses of McKinley Park and Brighton Park, according to press reports.

Safe, Healthy, and Temporary

District 15 Alderman, Raymond López, led the initiative to move the migrants to the Gage Park field house. This plan was developed with the administration of Chicago Mayor, Brandon Johnson, and various community agencies.

According to a press statement from Alderman López, this center operates under three main pillars: it must be safe, healthy, and temporary. According to Alderman López, the park campus will remain open and accessible to the public for baseball leagues, soccer leagues, outdoor swimming, and general park use. He added that the public would be provided with improvements in lighting, outdoor toilets, and washing options.

Last Wednesday, a bus full of migrants arrived at the Gage Park field house in the evening. The newcomers lined up to enter with their few belongings. After a three-month journey that started in Colombia, Venezuelan Diangelo Marcano entered the United States, reached Texas, and was bussed to Chicago. He arrived at the Gage Park shelter last Sunday, along with other migrants.

Marcano said that the Gage Park shelter houses both men and women and that they are well cared for. “In Texas, there were buses coming here to Chicago for free, they financed the trip and, since one doesn’t have the resources to go elsewhere, one decides to come to Chicago,” explained migrant Marcano to La Raza.

Marcano hopes to apply for asylum and has two children. “I’ve come to work hard like all immigrants to give a better life to my family.”

If the plan to establish ‘base camps’ in some areas of the city materializes, hundreds of migrants sleeping in tents or police stations would be moved to these temporary shelters. (Belhú Sanabria / La Raza)
Crédito: Impremedia


An empty lot in Brighton Park could become a tent camp for asylum seekers in Chicago

A bilingual community meeting to discuss this plan will be held on Tuesday, October 24, 6 pm, at Kelly High School, at 4136 S. California Ave. The city of Chicago also considers creating a camp in the West Pullman area

As temperatures begin to drop and the harsh Chicago winter approaches, there is a plan to house newly arrived migrants, asylum seekers, in ‘base camps’ due to the lack of temporary shelters.

Mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson, has asked the 50 members of the City Council to identify places in their districts to accommodate asylum seekers, according to reports from the Chicago Tribune.

From August 2022 to this week, more than 18,500 immigrants have arrived by bus from the southern border to Chicago. Of them, 11,241 are currently housed in shelters in the city, while more than 3,800 sleep on the floor of police stations and at O’Hare International Airport, according to the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC).

As part of the efforts to deal with this migration crisis, city leaders say that a new shelter for newly arrived immigrants is opening every six days. In some neighborhoods, for example, in Galewood, neighbors oppose using the Amundsen Park field house as a shelter, as the programs that were held there had to be suspended and moved to another nearby park.

Johnson signed a $29.3 million contract with the private security firm GardaWorld Federal Services, LLC to build the so-called ‘base camps’ for the winter, which would be used by asylum seekers. According to the proposal, these are military-grade tent camps that would have mobile kitchens, dormitories, bathrooms, and showers.

“The city was considering establishing these military-grade tent camps,” said 40th District Alderman André Vásquez, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Mayor Johnson revealed, for the first time a month ago, the plan to build tent camps that could each house, feed, and care for about 1,000 immigrants. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker criticized Johnson’s plan to house migrants in tents. Pritzker told the press that it would be better to house the migrants in unused federal buildings.

Officials Explore Plan for Winter

A possible tent camp in South Chicago would be set up in a parking lot near 115th and Halsted Streets in the West Pullman neighborhood. There’s also another proposal seeking to turn a vacant lot into a ‘base camp’ prepared for winter that would be used by asylum-seeking migrants. The lot is located at 38th Street and California Avenue, in the Brighton Park neighborhood in southwest Chicago.

“The site at 38th and California is a privately owned lot managed by Sánchez Group. Currently, the site is being evaluated by city departments,” said 12th District Alderwoman Julia Ramírez, whose jurisdiction includes that area of Brighton Park. According to a statement from Ramírez, a community meeting will be held to discuss the city’s plan for a possible shelter in Brighton Park for asylum seekers, assess the public safety of the area, and gather feedback from residents. “I am collecting information from the Mayor’s Office about the city’s plan to open a temporary shelter on a private lot in Brighton Park. My office will share updates as we receive them,” reads Ramírez’s message. The aim of discussing the plan to turn this vacant lot into a camp with tents for migrants is scheduled for a bilingual community meeting on Tuesday, October 24, at 6 pm, at Kelly High School, located at 4136 S. California Ave.

A layout of how tents, bathrooms, showers, dining areas, and other facilities could be arranged in a ‘base camp’ for migrants in Chicago (Courtesy of the City of Chicago)
Crédito: Cortesía


Discontent Among Brighton Park Residents Over the Imminent Installation of a ‘Base Camp’ for Migrants

Neighbors living near the vacant lot where the camp for asylum seekers is planned and Alderwoman Julia Ramírez ask the City Hall for more transparency about the project

For days, regardless of the cold or rain, Brighton Park neighbors have united to oppose the construction of a ‘base camp’ for newly arrived asylum-seeking migrants. Many of them are upset because, they said, they were not consulted before starting the project and fear for public safety in the area.

Janet Herrera, along with other area residents, raised their voices with signs in hand in front of the Brighton Park neighborhood’s vacant lot that could soon become a shelter for hundreds of migrants. “We’re not going to just stand by; we’re going to save our neighborhood,” said Herrera. She has lived across from the vacant lot for 20 years and is a homeowner.

“I’m against the project because it really seems inhumane to have them in ‘tents’ under Chicago temperatures. I think the organizers do not take into account that they [the migrants] will suffer. Why not take them to large buildings, where they can have a bit of warmth?” Herrera wondered. She and other neighbors have protested for days against the imminent temporary shelter in Brighton Park. “Day and night, here we will be, they will not move us. We are here simply because we want Alderwoman Julia Ramírez and Mayor Brandon Johnson to put themselves in our shoes. We feel betrayed by them, because they did not take us into account; they need to think a little bit about what we are suffering.”

Frustration and Opposition

A controversial project by the City of Chicago seeks to turn a vacant lot in Brighton Park into a tent camp for newly arrived migrants. The proposal has caused annoyance in the community, to the point that in recent days both District 12 Alderwoman, Julia Ramírez, whose jurisdiction includes that area of Brighton Park, and a member of her team were assaulted during a protest near the site intended for the camp’s construction.

The lot is located at 38th Street and California Avenue, in the Brighton Park neighborhood, southwest Chicago. According to the plan, these are ‘base camps’ for migrants that would have mobile kitchens, dormitories, bathrooms, and showers.

Recent figures indicate there are about 3,000 migrants waiting for shelter, according to the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC). Nearly 20,000 migrants have arrived in the city since late August 2022. Almost 12,000 migrants are in city shelters.

“The city was considering establishing these military-grade tent camps,” said District 40 Alderman André Vásquez, who chairs the City Hall Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson, revealed several weeks ago the plan to build tent camps that could house, feed, and care for about 1,000 migrants each.

“The site at 38th and California is a privately owned lot managed by Sánchez Group. Currently, the site is being evaluated by city departments,” District 12 Alderwoman, Julia Ramírez, reported in a statement. Ramírez organized a community meeting on Tuesday, October 24, to directly hear from residents. During the meeting held at Kelly High School in Brighton Park, many area residents expressed dissatisfaction and opposition to the city’s plan for the potential shelter, as well as concerns about public safety in the area and collected comments from the residents. City representatives also presented plans for the 10-acre site at the community meeting.

“A man who asked to remain anonymous, said he has been a Brighton Park resident for 35 years. Like other neighbors, he is concerned about public safety and opposes the establishment of a ‘base camp’ for migrants on the said privately owned lot. Although he went to Kelly High School, he could not attend the meeting due to space limitations. Regarding the shelter for immigrants, he stated: “I’m not against them [asylum seekers], nor with them, but I don’t want them here; I don’t want more violence.”

Lorenzo Gutiérrez, another neighbor with over two decades in the Brighton Park neighborhood, said he is against the ‘base camp’ for migrants “because it doesn’t seem fair to me to bring so many people to live in that site.” Gutiérrez said he could not enter Kelly High School because he was told the place was full.

Awaiting Environmental Test Results

Neighbors living near the vacant lot and Alderwoman Ramírez are calling for more transparency from the city about the project. “The Mayor’s Office did not consult me or my office about their current plans to build a temporary shelter, intended to house 1,500 people, at 38th and California,” reads a statement from Ramírez published a few days ago.

However, city officials confirmed their intention to turn the vacant lot into a tent camp for migrants. City officials are awaiting the results of environmental tests before deciding whether to proceed, informed Cristina Pacione Zayas, First Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Johnson.

The city has been evaluating the site for several days. Officials stated they would notify residents about the outcome of the final evaluation and share more details of the operations before moving newly arrived migrants to the site.

Initially, the ‘base camp’ is expected to shelter 500 people and then expand its capacity to 2,000 people, said Deputy Mayor for Immigrant, Migrant, and Refugee Rights, Beatriz Ponce de León.

This proposal arises at a time when the suburb of Oak Park in Chicago received a $150,000 grant aimed at bolstering its capacity to assist asylum seekers in terms of transitional housing, food, medical care, and overall well-being.

Neighbors of Brighton Park, in the southwest of Chicago, oppose the construction of a “base camp” for recent migrants on a vacant lot at 38th Street and California. (Belhú Sanabria / La Raza)
Crédito: Impremedia


Governor Pritzker’s Plan Aims to Alleviate Migrant Crisis as Winter Approaches

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson announced the ‘Unity’ initiative, in which at least 17 local churches will open their doors to house and feed asylum seekers. It will be funded by private donations at no cost to taxpayers.

State and municipal officials, along with religious leaders, are intensifying efforts and mobilizing quickly to get newly arrived migrants off the streets and out of police stations as the harsh Chicago winter approaches.

The Illinois government detailed measures to alleviate the crisis and protect asylum seekers from the severe cold. According to Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), part of the plan involves opening two temporary shelters that will house at least 2,200 migrants. The plans include a ‘base camp’ for newly arrived immigrants in the Brighton Park neighborhood, southwest Chicago.

It’s worth noting that the plans for the Brighton Park immigrant camp have sparked rejection from residents concerned about the habitability of the site and the safety of those who will be sheltered there.

Additionally, since the site was previously industrial, residents believe the soil is contaminated.

The city is paying nearly $92,000 per month to lease the vacant lot. This adds to the $29 million contract signed with GardaWorld in September, to build ‘base camps’ for immigrants across the city.

Despite the protests, city officials stated in a written declaration last Monday that the site would be “suitable for the purpose for which it will be used.” A city spokesperson told the press that environmental mitigation work might be completed by the weekend. Installation of tents at Brighton Park was expected to begin last Wednesday.

Another shelter is also planned in a building in Little Village, located at 2600 S. Pulaski Road, where a CVS pharmacy used to operate.

Both migrant shelters are expected to start operating in mid-December, according to city officials. Priority will be given to families and individuals with special needs, those sleeping on police station floors, outdoors, and at O’Hare International Airport. Migrants will receive basic assistance such as food, personal hygiene services, and a place to sleep, among other services.

The Illinois government has also allocated $30 million to strengthen an intake center and a welcome team to provide immediate guidance and support to migrants seeking shelter and services, to more effectively connect asylum seekers with sponsors in Chicago or Illinois, and to offer assistance to those seeking to communicate with them.

Churches Mobilize to Help Migrants

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, last Tuesday, announced the ‘Unity’ initiative, in which at least 17 local churches will open their doors to house and feed immigrants, with $350,000 in private donations at no cost to taxpayers.

The operation of the shelters in Little Village and Brighton Park will be managed by the organization New Life Centers of Chicago. Ken Alvarado from New Life Centers said they are collecting coats, jackets, blankets, and other winter clothing to take to police stations and shelters across the city. They are also accepting donations of home furniture: “we are collecting furniture for homes, because we also help when Catholic Charities finds an apartment for them [the asylum seekers], we fill it with furniture, beds, whatever a little house may need,” Alvarado specified. “We want to help them with social services: how to go to schools, food pantries, pharmacies, how to take the bus. Create a community, get involved with churches, organizations so that they can be part of the community,” Ken Alvarado told La Raza.

Many times migrants arrive with flip-flops and t-shirts from the southern border to Chicago and are not ready for the city’s intense cold, André Gordillo, director of the New Neighbors program at New Life Centers, told La Raza. “We are going to be connecting people with resources while they are in this place,” mentioned Gordillo.

New Life Centers is collecting new or used coats, but in good condition, for newly arrived migrants. They are also raising funds, nearly reaching the goal of $50,000, and this is to support the newcomers with more resources. More information at

[Note: The migrant camp on a lot in Brighton Park was ultimately not established, as Illinois Governor JB Pritzker decided to cancel it due to environmental considerations. Authorities determined that the site had harmful concentrations of metals and other substances.]

Broadway Armory Park is located at 5917 N. Broadway St., in the heart of Edgewater, in the north of Chicago. (Belhú Sanabria / La Raza)
Crédito: Impremedia


Broadway Armory Park in Edgewater Becomes Temporary Shelter for Migrants

Some neighbors complain that useful programs in that place have been canceled. Chicago city officials have stated that asylum seekers will only stay in that shelter for six months.

Nearly a year since the first bus with migrants arrived in Chicago from Texas, the humanitarian crisis created by the massive arrival of these asylum seekers is far from over.

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott announced on August 31, 2022, the arrival of the first group of immigrants by bus to Chicago. The migrants, mostly asylum seekers, were left at Union Station that night.

Abbott’s initiative to send newcomers to Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and other progressive Democrat cities welcoming immigrants emerged as a way to reject the immigration and border policies of Democratic President Joe Biden.

Since then, Chicago has received more than 11,500 migrant families transported by bus or plane from Texas without prior notice, in what has been criticized as a politically charged move.

Most asylum seekers, due to the lack of temporary shelters, have had to sleep on the floors of city police stations. In recent days, a new temporary shelter was opened in the Edgewater community, a neighborhood in the north of Chicago. Residents’ reactions to hosting them at Broadway Armory Park, located in the heart of Edgewater, are divided.

Broadway Armory Park is located at 5917 N. Broadway St. and is used by the Chicago Park District for summer camps, has a gym, and a senior center. In addition, the site hosts programs and activities for the community.

Neighbors in Edgewater recently protested to stop the city’s plan. Part of their anger, they say, is because many of the programs at Broadway Armory Park that benefited them have been canceled.

Solidarity and Criticism

Several buses have already taken asylum seekers to Broadway Armory Park. City of Chicago officials have stated that the site will house a maximum of 250 immigrants.

The neighbors in the area are also concerned, they pointed out, about security in the area and that incidents allegedly occurring in other city shelters are repeated in their neighborhood. For example, neighbors in areas in the south and west of Chicago have complained that certain migrants loiter around the area, litter, and gather to drink alcohol on the street until the early morning.

What worries them most, they say, is that some of them engage in illicit activities related to prostitution and drugs, increasing insecurity.

There are other residents of the neighborhood who say they are not opposed to immigrants living in Edgewater, but they mentioned that the five empty churches in the neighborhood would have been a better place to house them.

Parallel to this, it was reported that services for the elderly, such as daily hot meals, will continue to be open and available at Broadway Armory Park.

An Anglo-Saxon man who has lived in Edgewater for over a decade, and who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the only issue is that there are very good programs at Broadway Armory Park that have been canceled to convert the place into a temporary shelter for asylum seekers. “There are six empty churches in the neighborhood, why not take the migrants to those churches? People around the neighborhood are angry because their programs have been canceled, it’s a bad idea.”

Eduardo Jijón works at a local hospital. He migrated from Mexico to the United States six years ago and is a neighbor in the area. He explained to La Raza that his stance is supportive of the newcomers. “They are migrants, they are in need, we as residents are in a more comfortable position compared to them, we have to be a bit more empathetic with this situation.”

Venezuelans Yunior Araujo and Kleidimar Camacaro, and the married couple Carolina Chaparro and Guillermo Aranda, who had been sleeping at the District 16 police station for at least a month, arrived a few days ago at the Edgewater shelter to see the place they were told they would be moved to. The migrants say that, as they have minor children, they are concerned about the presence of many adults in the shelter.

Carolina Chaparro mentioned she has heard comments about the misconduct of some migrants and regrets that because of a group, all Venezuelan migrants are being labeled. “We are not to blame for that minority; we come to work, to behave well, and because of them who are doing things wrong, they are harming us, those who do come to work, that’s not fair.”

City of Chicago officials have stated that the newcomers will only remain in that shelter for six months.

The use of Broadway Armory Park as a temporary shelter for migrants comes as the city struggles to find shelter for thousands of asylum seekers.

This temporary shelter is located in the jurisdiction of District 48 Alderwoman Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, who stated the following: “Broadway Armory Park is a beloved community center for District 48. It is the heart of Edgewater and the impact of repurposing it is not something I take lightly. Edgewater also prides itself on being a welcoming community. We are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis and have a moral responsibility to ensure that asylum seekers are welcomed and treated with dignity and respect, while we work with community partners to secure alternative sites for park programming.”

Alexandra Peraza sells merchandise related to February 14th near Broadway Armory Park. (Belhú Sanabria / La Raza)
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Dilemma at Broadway Armory Park: Continue as a Migrant Shelter or Resume Its Community Programs

To date, about 13,000 newly arrived immigrants are housed in 28 shelters operated by the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, according to officials

Alexandra Peraza offers affordable delicious Venezuelan empanadas, but last Wednesday, being Valentine’s Day, she decided to sell chocolates and balloons on the street, right on the same block where Broadway Armory Park is located, where she, her husband, and her children lived for two months.

Peraza no longer lives in that shelter since last November. She rents a house without the help of the state or municipal government, so she must find a way to earn income to help her husband pay the rent and feed their children aged 4, 6, and 8.

The migrant woman is eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), has applied, and is waiting for her work permit. “It hasn’t arrived yet. I always come to sell empanadas, but now since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m selling these little details, while the work permit comes out,” Peraza commented.

The Venezuelan migrant hopes the city government will extend the stay in shelters a bit longer, so that newcomers can stay in shelters until at least the end of winter, as she said there are children inside the facilities who could get sick if left on the street. “Give immigrants a little more time until summer comes, because with the cold, imagine those little ones on the street, because sometimes one does not find a job,” Peraza told La Raza.

It has been six months since the city turned a beloved community center in the Edgewater community into a temporary shelter for newly arrived migrants. The initiative sparked anger among some residents because certain programs held there were canceled and others rescheduled to different facilities, starting from August 1, when Broadway Armory Park was transformed into a temporary shelter for asylum seekers.

City officials stated that, after six months of operation, the shelter’s use would be re-evaluated, something that, according to neighbors, has yet to occur. And there are those who already want to use Broadway Armory Park, located at 5917 N. Broadway St., in the heart of Edgewater, for its usual programs.

Migrant Yoselina López, 25, is waiting for her TPS, just like the rest of her family. The federal government granted the possibility of applying for TPS to Venezuelans who entered the United States no later than July 23, 2023. López and her family members said they have come to this country to work and to have a better future.

López understands that the community needs its space. “This is public, and many residents need it. One cannot say to extend the stay, because it is understood that people also need their things.”

The Broadway Armory Park building is used by the Chicago Park District for summer camps, has a gym, and a senior center. Additionally, the site hosts programs and activities for the community. According to the Broadway Armory Park Advisory Council, 67% of the park’s programming was canceled, while 33% of its programs are offered at nearby locations.

City officials stated that the building houses 300 newly arrived immigrants. There are other residents who want the programs to return to the facility as soon as spring. Dion Brown, a lifelong resident of the Edgewater neighborhood, said it’s time for the immigrants to leave the Broadway Armory Park facilities. “I feel very sorry for them, but they have to go, they have occupied our center for six months, we pay our taxes to attend programs in our community,” Brown told La Raza.

The use of Broadway Armory Park as a temporary shelter for migrants occurred during a critical time when the City of Chicago struggled to find spaces for thousands of asylum seekers.

Impact of Programming

District 48 Alderwoman, Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, advocates for the return of Park District programming to its facilities, including Broadway Armory Park. This temporary shelter is located in the jurisdiction of Alderwoman Manaa-Hoppenworth, who indicated in a statement: “neighbors convened a working group to assess the impact of the relocated and canceled Park District programming and discovered that only 33% of Broadway Armory Park’s programming was offered at nearby locations, and they shared their report with the Alderwoman and city officials.”

“There is no commitment from the mayor’s office on when Park District programming will return to Broadway Armory Park,” reads the statement.

Jorge Sifontes, in front of Broadway Armory Park in Edgewater. (Belhú Sanabria / La Raza)
Crédito: Impremedia

Venezuelan migrant Jorge Sifontes said he could soon find himself on the street with his wife and three children. He is concerned because his outlook is uncertain. Sifontes entered the United States on November 18, 2023, is not eligible for the TPS program, nor to receive housing assistance. He says the City Hall set March 17 as the deadline to leave the shelter. The migrant will seek asylum, but he knows the process is lengthy.

Like Sifontes, there are several cases within the shelter. “We would like the federal government to extend the eligibility for work permits and for Catholic Charities to expand its housing assistance help for those who arrived recently.”

“We are not in a position to demand, but if it’s in the hands of the government, of Catholic Charities, we ask that they extend the help for those who arrived later,” Sifontes reiterated.

To date, about 13,000 newly arrived immigrants are staying in 28 shelters operated by the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois, according to officials. La Raza contacted the Chicago Park District and Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office to request a comment or statement on the matter, but no response was received by the time of publication.

The production and publication of these stories by La Raza have been made possible in part thanks to a grant from the Chicago Community Trust through its Cross Community Impact grant program.

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