One of the three buses to come to the school was briefly stopped by frustrated residents who don’t want the migrants housed there.
“We weren’t going to let the bus come in,” Luis Cardona said.
Cardona and Andre Smith, two Woodlawn residents, stood in the street outside the old school to intentionally block a CTA bus carrying shelter staff from getting in.
“We’re standing here, willing to be arrested because we’re saying you didn’t hear us and we’re not hearing you,” Smith said.
Smith is running for 20th Ward Alderman.
Smith said his and other residents’ frustration has nothing to do with the people who will be living in the shelter.
“My issue is not with the migrants,” Smith said. “My issue is with being transparent and working together.”
Chicago police, the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communication and members of the mayor’s office were called to the area. The bus was eventually rerouted and the workers make it into the building.
Later in the afternoon, another bus arrived carrying migrants.
According to the city, the building will initially house 250 migrants. Other locations were considered, but the former school met health, safety and capacity requirements.
People who live nearby said they feel like they didn’t get a voice in the decision.
“It’s not fair to the immigrants and it most certainly is not fair to the homeowners,” Jeannie Newsome said.
Newsome lives across the street from the new shelter and said she feels it’s not a safe area for the migrants.
“It’s like taking lambs and throwing them in the middle of the wolf den,” Newsome said.
20th Ward Ald. Jeannette Taylor issued a statement Thursday evening noting the lack of public notice about the asylum seekers moving in, but encouraged Woodlawn residents to be welcoming.
“In more recent history, Woodlawn has welcomed Black residents, like myself, being displaced by the gentrification from other neighborhoods in our own city,” Taylor said in a statement. “In the spirit of this legacy, I am urging us to welcome asylum seekers and unhoused local residents to the vacant Wadsworth building.”
But even amid the pushback, some Woodlawn residents are stepping up.
“I’ve already got people calling me saying ‘Where can I drop off clothes? What do is it that they need? What do they have?'” Taylor said. “The community is ultimately going to have to turn lemons into lemonade.”
Taylor said she wants the city to commit to hiring Woodlawn residents and businesses for work at the shelter. She also wants the shelter to become a long-term community resource when the shelter space is no longer needed.