Chicago officials said the city has welcomed a bus full of migrants nearly every day since the beginning of July.
In all, more than 12,000 people have arrived in the city since last August, mostly from Central and South America.
Meanwhile, hundreds of migrant men, women and children continue to sleep on police station floors, despite efforts to move them into shelters.
“The timeline is now,” said Beatriz Ponce de León, Chicago’s deputy mayor of immigrant, migrant and refugee rights. “We are working diligently across the city to expand our shelters, looking first and foremost at our city-owned properties and then also creating new opportunities. We know that the police stations are a temporary place.”
There are currently about 5,900 individuals living in city shelters.
Meanwhile, of the 77 buses that have arrived in Chicago since January, 69 of them have arrived during Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration, according to Ponce de León.
“It’s been about one bus a day since July,” she said. “So on any given bus, we have 40 to 50 individuals. Some are singles, many are families, and as soon as they arrive, we move them into our police stations and then as quickly as we can, we move them into our shelters. We’ve vetted over 200 locations for possible shelters, again, focusing first on our city-owned properties but also looking to potentially lease or purchase properties.”
City properties include city colleges and unused or closed schools.
“In addition, motels have been recommended or nursing homes or different locations where we can have at least 200 to 250 people,” Ponce de León said. “Not all locations, the majority, the vast majority, are not viable options. They need to have enough space for about 200 to 250. They need to have adequate plumbing, bathroom space and the ability to either set up showers or bring mobile showers and spaces for people, common areas.”
Aug. 31 will mark one year since the first bus of migrants arrived in Chicago from the border.
A number of migrants were relocated from a police station this week to the Broadway Armory in Edgewater following protests in that community.
“Really the challenges are tremendous,” Ponce de León said. “This is a humanitarian crisis. We have no control over the buses. … Folks are arriving at Chicago’s doorstep, and we’re a welcoming city. So we are doing our best to welcome our new neighbors, to treat people with dignity, to help and to put them on a path where they can resettle here in the city.”
Prior to this newly created role, Ponce de León worked for the Illinois Department of Human Services.