Chicago Grapples with Influx of Migrants, Struggling to Provide Adequate Shelter amid Cold Snap
Subheading: Over 32,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 2022, overwhelming the city’s resources.
Amidst a bitter cold spell, migrants arriving in Chicago from Texas face not only the challenges of their arduous journey but also the harsh reality of insufficient shelter. With temperatures plummeting, many migrants find themselves in dire straits, clad only in t-shirts and blankets, as the city grapples to accommodate the escalating numbers.
Data from the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications reveal that nearly 15,000 migrants currently reside in Chicago shelters, while an additional 550 await available beds. The shortage has forced some to seek makeshift accommodations in tents, city buses, and even at O’Hare International Airport.
Pastor John Zayas, a key figure in the citywide Unity Initiative involving 17 churches, has been at the forefront since the arrival of the first bus of migrants in August 2022. Despite successfully assisting over 400 individuals in finding temporary shelter, Zayas acknowledges the challenges of the rapidly escalating situation.
“The issue is that it’s coming so fast, and it’s hard for us to catch our breath,” Zayas said.
Among those affected is Jason Urdaneta from Venezuela, a former mechanic who ended up sleeping in a tent due to the lack of available shelter. Urdaneta attributes his migration to economic hardship, stating, “My job didn’t pay enough to get by back home.”
With similar challenges faced by other major cities like New York and Denver, Mayor Brandon Johnson joined forces with mayors Eric Adams and Mike Johnston in urging the Biden administration for substantial federal resources to manage the influx.
The Chicago City Council recently approved an ordinance to penalize bus companies dropping off migrants without notice or outside designated landing zones. Despite Chicago spending $138 million last year on migrant housing, Alderman Andre Vasquez expresses concerns about the city’s ability to sustain the situation.
“Our ability to be able to handle it, when it’s funds that are coming from the city, when it comes to staffing levels, that becomes the challenge,” Vasquez said. “And so when you think about the capacity challenges, that is very real.”
Zayas remains committed to the cause, tirelessly seeking solutions to accommodate migrants like Urdaneta. “So it’s kind of keeping that wheel rolling as people are moving and finding places to go and work,” Zayas said.