Mayor Brandon Johnson said Thursday his administration has dropped a plan to shelter migrants in the Amundsen Park field house on the city’s West Side after intense backlash.
Park programs will resume Monday, Johnson said in a joint statement with 29th Ward Ald. Chris Taliaferro, who vigorously objected to the plan to transform the building into a migrant shelter. Community groups pushed back against the move, saying the park was a vital hub for the Black community.
With a drop in the number of migrants sent to Chicago by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican determined to harm President Joe Biden’s reelection bid, and “the imminent addition of significant new shelter space,” the Amundsen Park field house is no longer needed, Johnson and Taliaferro said.
Construction began in earnest on Wednesday on a so-called “winterized base camp” in Brighton Park, which could house some of the more than 971 migrants now living at police stations and O’Hare International Airport.
In addition, more than a dozen Chicago churches have renewed an effort to shelter some of the migrants as part of an initiative touted by Johnson Tuesday.
More than 23,100 people, many fleeing violence and economic collapse in Venezuela, have made their way to Chicago since August 2022. That has strained the city’s social safety net, pinched the city’s finances and exacerbated tension between Chicago’s Black and Latino communities.
More than 13,000 migrants are living in 25 city shelters, including five in Chicago Park District facilities.
In a separate statement issued late Wednesday, Taliaferro celebrated the reopening of Amundsen Park in Austin, which is home to a majority of Black residents, including Johnson and his family.
“Residents of this ward, and those who joined from the south and north ends of the city, came together to stand strong in keeping this community asset available to residents,” said Taliaferro, Johnson’s hand-picked chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
Taliaferro thanked Johnson for listening to the concerns of his community.
A separate plan to convert a nearby industrial building at 1900 N. Austin Ave. into a migrant shelter is also on hold, Taliaferro said.