CHICAGO — Shelter for migrants and people without homes was again a hotly-contested topic at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and his City Hall allies suffered a setback as members remain divided over the purchase of an abandoned South Side property. A vacant Jewel Osco store and parking lot, located at 115th and Halstead, is likely the relocation destination for a migrant tent camp in the West Pullman neighborhood.
While the housing committee agreed Monday to accept the property, an expected vote by the full City Council derailed Wednesday. Now, some council members are calling for a special vote on Thursday regarding a possible referendum on Chicago’s status as a Sanctuary City.
“We are still a city without a plan,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward).
Southside 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale led the charge amid pushback on a Morgan Park shelter that could house 1,400 migrants.
“Do (we) want to continue to spend $30-$40 million a month? While our neighborhoods are crumbling?”Beale asked.
The situation for asylum seekers is growing increasingly urgent, with 2,815 primarily Venezuelan migrants still camped out in tents at Chicago Police Districts, according to newly released numbers.
Many newcomers with children told WGN News they worry about the cold and the exposure making their children sick.
“We don’t know what to do,” one Venezuelan mother confessed with the inevitable arrival of more snow and bitter cold.
Johnson’s City Council floor leader tried to salvage Wednesday’s shelter vote.
“You don’t turn down a free piece of land. And this free piece of land will sooner rather than later become the Morgan Park Commons,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward).
Many alderpersons pointed to the lack of support from the federal government amid their plea for unity. Still, the vote on the future of the Morgan Park property was deferred.
The Associated Press reports that Johnson will join mayors of Denver, Houston, Los Angeles and New York in meeting with President Joe Biden about obtaining federal help in managing the surge of arriving migrants.
“We’re going to push the federal government just like we’re going to push the state of Illinois to do its part,” Johnson said. “Chicago is leaning in. We have bore the brunt of the responsibility here. That is not an equitable distribution of how governments should cooperate.”