CHICAGO — Chicago officials said they’re working against time, money and space with the surging number of asylum seekers far outpacing available resources.
“Our system is over capacity,” Commissioner Brandie Knazze said. “Make no mistake, we are in a surge and things have yet to peak.”
Families with nowhere else to go are sleeping inside Chicago police districts.
“This is not safe and it’s not the right thing to do, the way to treat people,” 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell said.
In a virtual city council committee meeting, Commissioner Brandie Knazzie said as of Friday morning, the city had zero shelter beds available for families.
Chicago is facing a recent increase in the number of people arriving daily by plane and bus from border states, in addition to the population of people who were already unhoused.
Outgoing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent council members a letter asking them to work to help identify large locations that can serve as shelters.
Olive Branch Mission partners with the city and is providing housing for more than 100 new arrivals who have arrived since last year.
“We of course have the asylum seekers but homelessness never stopped,” Katrina Coleman, the interim CEO of the mission, said. “We can’t forget that everyone needs services.”
The city has welcomed more than 8,000 asylum seekers since August, city officials said. The city has only received $5.5 million from FEMA to address the issues last year.
So far, no FEMA money has been released this year and the city’s budget director said what’s projected to come still won’t be enough.
“The city has been requesting financial assistance and to date has not received enough to address this emergency,” Budget Director Susie Park said.
39th Ward Ald. Samantha Nugent said this is a national problem that needs to be addressed at the federal level.
Officials are expecting more people to be arriving in the coming weeks as the Pandemic Era Immigration Restrictions, known as Title 42, is set to expire on May 11.