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Migrants to head to hostel as early as Friday; many in neighborhood baffled


By Jermont Terry

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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — Concerned residents packed a meeting in Greektown Wednesday night, filling up two levels of seats.

They demanded the city give the details of its plan to house hundreds of migrants in a hostel as soon as Friday.

The Parthenon Guest House, 310 S. Halsted St., will become the 18th city-operated shelter to house migrants. By next Friday, just under 200 single men and women will move in.

The decision has many in the West Loop baffled. They do not understand why they never have a say when it comes to shelter decisions.

“I’d like to know what’s the city’s endgame and plan is,” one resident said at a community meeting Wednesday night. “Are we going to continuously open shelters in hopes of working permits to be awarded?

Ald. Bill Conway (34th) held the community meeting Wednesday night at the Merit School of Music, 38 S. Peoria St. Some at the meeting were unhappy with the fact that they are finding out about the asylum seekers moving in, once again, after the city had already finalized the deal.

Even Ald. Conway was blindsided.

“I would have liked the opportunity to have more notice,” Conway said. “This community meeting, I admit, was hastily put together.”

Beatriz Ponce de León is the Deputy Mayor for Immigrant, Migrant and Refugee Rights, appointed by Mayor Brandon Johnson.

“This is a humanitarian effort that requires all level of government,” said Ponce de León. “Our administration is committed to making that happen.”

Ponce de León told the crowd the Mayor’s office is learning from all the meetings. Yet we pressed why communities keep finding out at the last minute.

Terry: “You are obviously doing some work in many of these hotels and motels. Why not inform them the moment you start the work?”

Ponce de León: “It really is matter of timing. And I agree – if I were a resident and something was happening in my neighborhood, I would want to have more of a say. I think we’re just operating in crisis moment.”

A total of 13,500 migrants have arrived in Chicago since August of last year. A total of 126 buses loads brought migrants here so far this year, with the majority – 120 buses – pulling up between May and August.

The city says four buses arrived on Wednesday. There are also just under 2,000 migrants still sleeping at Chicago Police stations.

There is support in the community.

“I completely support the idea of putting migrants in the Parthenon,” one woman said at the meeting. “I think that it’s a very important issue.”

But many question if buses are ever getting detoured elsewhere.

“And it means every neighborhood has to step up, but also, the whole state has to step up,” another woman said.

Safety was another concern raised Wednesday. The city said openly that they do not do background checks on those in shelters – but there will be security guards 24/7.

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