CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker has announced a plan to improve the asylum seeker emergency response.

The governor’s plan comes as police stations continue housing new arrivals and cold weather begins to move into the area.

The plan will invest an additional investment of $160 million as an emergency response to speed transition and independent living for the more than 24,000 asylum seekers who have arrived in the state since August 2022.

The $160 million will be split in the following ways:

  • $30 million wil go towards a large intake center. Its exact location is still to be determined.
  • $65 million to help the City of Chicago launch a winterized soft shelter site.
  • $65 million to expand wraparound services like case management, legal services, work permit processing and workforce development support.

The money is coming from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

This investment builds on the $478 million in state funding that has been committed to the asylum seeker response over the fiscal year 2023-2024, all with the goal of moving people inside and away from the cold and achieve self-sufficiency.

Organizers said this is an all-hands-on-deck plan, even after both the state and city have asked for help at the federal level for money.

An allocation for organizations such as the New Life Centers of Chicagoland says the money will help them direct new arrivals to resources.

“We will still treat people with dignity and respect, but it’s at all levels,” said executive director Matt DeMateo. “How do we keep the system flowing a little bit better? Coordination from city, state, nonprofits, faith community, etc.”

As part of the plan, the governor aims to submit at least 11,000 work permit applications. It’s an effort already underway through workshops with legal aid providers and pro-Bono attorneys.