Chicago Officials Evict Just 3 Migrants From City Shelters, as Uncertainty Continues

The former industrial building at 2241 S. Halsted St. that has been converted into the city's largest shelter. (WTTW News)The former industrial building at 2241 S. Halsted St. that has been converted into the city's largest shelter. (WTTW News)

Chicago officials evicted just three migrants from city shelters on Sunday, far fewer than expected, raising new questions about whether more than 2,000 men and women sent to Chicago from the southern border will have to leave city shelters by the end of April.

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City officials initially told reporters 35 people living in three city shelters were informed Friday they would have to leave by 2 p.m. Sunday. Hours later, officials revised that tally to 34 without explanation.

Twenty-seven people were allowed to stay after they presented evidence they had applied for public benefits that will make it possible for them to secure more permanent housing. Four others were allowed to stay because they are pregnant or have a disability, officials said.

A spokesperson for Mayor Brandon Johnson did not answer a question from WTTW News about why migrants exempt from the city’s 60-day limit on shelter stays were informed they would have to leave. 

Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Johnson’s first deputy chief of staff, acknowledged on Friday that city officials have struggled to implement the policy imposing limits on city shelter stays first announced in November by Johnson and then delayed three times.

“There is no blueprint for this,” Pacione-Zayas said. “We are building the plane as we are flying it.”

The Chicago City Council’s Progressive Caucus, which includes Johnson’s closest allies, joined the City Council’s Latino Caucus on Monday in calling for “an immediate end” to the 60-day limit on shelter stays for migrants despite the strain on the city’s social safety net and finances.

“Evicting new arrivals from the only place they have to live won’t address these challenges; rather, it will exacerbate them,” according to the statement.

Migrants evicted from a city shelter with nowhere else to go can return to the designated “landing zone” for buses from Texas at Polk and Desplaines streets in the West Loop, and reapply for shelter, according to the policy. If space is available, they could return for an additional 60 days, officials said.

An additional 244 people will be required to leave city shelters by March 31, with another 1,782 set to be evicted by April 30, officials said Friday.

That means 2,026 migrants are set to be evicted by April 30, officials said Friday.

However, it is not clear how many of those migrants actually qualify for an exemption and will ultimately be allowed to stay.

Officials announced Friday that families with school-age children will be allowed to remain in city shelters until after the academic year ends in June. 

In addition, no one will be evicted from the city’s migrant shelter in Pilsen, where 10 cases of measles had been confirmed as of late Thursday night. Everyone asked by health officials to quarantine for at least 21 days in that shelter after being exposed to measles will be allowed to stay for that period and an additional week, Pacione-Zayas said.

The last confirmed case of measles in Chicago was announced by Chicago Department of Public Health officials on Thursday, five days ago.

Since the beginning of February, Chicago officials have closed five city-run shelters as the number of migrants arriving in Chicago slowed and the pace of people finding permanent housing increased. 

Fewer than 11,000 people were living in 23 city facilities as of Sunday, a more than 25% drop since mid-December, the most recent peak of the humanitarian crisis facing Chicago.

It is unclear whether city officials will close shelters as migrants are evicted, which would limit the number of beds available for those who have already been in a city-run shelter for 60 days as well as for new arrivals.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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