Shuttered Woodlawn School Will No Longer Be Used as Migrant Shelter, Mayor Brandon Johnson Announces

City officials will no longer use a shuttered school in Woodlawn as a shelter for migrants, 15 months after it began housing hundreds of people sent to Chicago, fueling tensions between Black and Latino Chicagoans.

There are no plans to use the former school as a shelter in the future, according to a spokesperson for Mayor Brandon Johnson.

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Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot opened the shelter at 6420 S. University Ave. in February 2023 after overruling vehement objections from nearby residents and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward), who were furious that the city spent $1.5 million to renovate the long-shuttered school without consulting with them and after decades of disinvestment in Woodlawn.

Taylor, who declined to comment Monday when reached by WTTW News, urged Lightfoot to drop the plan to use vacant CPS building in a primarily Black neighborhood as a shelter for primarily Latino migrants. Taylor is a close ally of Johnson.

Residents of the Wadsworth shelter were moved to other nearby shelters during the past week, a city spokesperson said.

Once slated to house no more than 200 people, the shelter at Wadsworth was home to nearly 650 people in mid-January, the most recent peak of the humanitarian crisis gripping the city, city data shows.

In all, more than 41,000 people, many fleeing violence and economic collapse in Venezuela, have made their way to Chicago since August 2022, with nearly 90% of those migrants arriving in the past 12 months.

Many longtime Woodlawn residents blamed residents of the shelter for decreasing their quality of life with what they said was a surge of loitering, late-night partying, littering and prostitution.

City officials have closed 12 migrant shelters since the beginning of February, records show.

Nearly 41,500 migrants, all of whom are in the country legally after requesting asylum, have made their way to Chicago as part of an effort by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to damage President Joe Biden’s chances for reelection and divide Democratic voters.

Fewer than 8,400 people were living in 16 city facilities as of Monday, a drop of nearly 30% since April 1, according to city data.

Since city officials began enforcing the 60-day limit on shelter stays imposed by Johnson, approximately 700 men and women have been evicted since mid-March.

For months, city officials have been predicting a renewed increase in the number of migrants sent to Chicago as the weather warms and Texas officials step up efforts to speed the flow to Chicago in time for the Democratic National Convention in late August.

That surge has yet to materialize, allowing the Johnson administration to close five shelters in Chicago Park District facilities at the end of March and now the Wasdsworth shelter.

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

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