CHICAGO — An old department store near Ford City Mall on the Southwest Side could soon become a shelter as the city works to accommodate the recent influx of migrants who are being bused to Chicago, changing course on earlier opposition to the plan.
In a letter sent out to 23rd Ward residents, Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) said the city has notified her office about plans to use the location as it works to move migrants out of Chicago police stations.
According to Tabares, the plans for the facility were initially proposed by the governor’s office back in February, but the city had opposed the facility, deeming it unsafe. Tabares said the city has since reversed course on the decision and notified her office that it now intends to use the long-shuttered K-Mart as a migrant shelter.
The new shelter would utilize the vacant building and parking lot in the 7000 block of South Pulaski Road, in West Lawn, to house migrants. Tabares said the facility is around 100,000 square feet and the parking lot can fit around 100 cars. Migrants at the facility would be housed both indoors and in the parking lot, using winterized tents.
“They’ve done a complete 180 so quickly which raises serious questions as to how the city is making their decision on these tents,” Tabares said.
When the plans were originally proposed, they were met with concern from Tabares and residents in the area who worried about the safety of the local community and those who would be housed at the facility.
Tabares opposed the development of the facility in February and in her most recent letter to residents, she said her opposition to the development continues.
“My position remains unchanged: constructing a migrant shelter in our community is unfair to our current residents due to current population densities, overcrowding in our local neighborhood schools, and overextended public safety resources and police manpower. With these factors in mind, it is clear housing a migrant shelter here would be unwise, unsafe, and irresponsible.
In the letter, Tabares criticized the city’s approach to the plans and invited community members to sign a petition opposing the shelter.
“The administration has approached this endeavor with a severe lack of transparency, accountability, and community input. Despite the city’s efforts to exclude aldermanic and community input, I intend to keep voicing my concerns for the safety of migrants and community members alike,” Tabares said in part.
In an interview with WGN News on Monday, Tabares said the city’s sudden change is disrespectful to residents of the Southwest Side who have been left in the dark about the decision-making process.
“The residents I represent feel shut out of the process, which is why I’m asking the residents to join me in signing a petition because we’re in this together,” Tabares said.
According to Tabares, it is unclear when the new facility could come to fruition, another reason why she feels the decision is unjust.
“There is no engagement with me and the community about the plan,” Tabares said.