CHICAGO — Nearly two weeks after Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson revealed plans to erect tent cities to accommodate an influx of migrants, WGN Investigates has new information on the accommodations they can expect.
The city quietly signed a $29 million contract with Garda World last week to erect, staff and operate the facilities. Each tent must be able to house 250-1,400 people.
The company must also provide migrants with bedding, laundry, showers, 3-meals a day and security.
There is also a line that says the tents can be heated to 70 degrees if the outside temperature is 40 degrees leading to questions about their warmth in colder weather.
“I can only imagine what’s going to happen trying to keep an outdoor tent warm in the winter when we know single digit temps will be the norm come January or February,” 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez said.
The tent city contract also calls for several other benefits including, all-day child care seven days a week and vans to take migrants to schools, doctor appointments and community resources.
“We’re not thinking long term,” Lopez said. “We’re only doing crisis to crisis and I’ve said this is not a game of Whack-a-mole. This has to be a long term thought out process.”
Lopez said the costs are irresponsible without offering long-term benefits to taxpayers.
“What I think everybody is afraid of is that we’re going to see another Covid-style debacle where we spend millions like we did at McCormick Place for a 3,000 cot hospital only to be used by 63 people and then throw everything out when the crisis is over,” Lopez said. “Chicagoans want to see this money spent in a way that lasts for a generation.”
“My plan is to move with expediency, families out of police stations into housing and shelters that are more suitable,” Johnson said earlier this month.
The company tasked with building and operating Chicago’s tent cities is reportedly making money on both sides of the crisis.
Garda World is also said to have a contract with Florida Governor Ron Desantis’ administration to re-locate migrants out of that state.
A city spokesperson said this contact was done in conjunction with the state’s disaster proclamation to quickly move the nearly 1500 migrants currently staying at police stations but they’re not saying when the tent cities may open or where they’ll be located.
The city is expected to spend more than $255 million caring for migrants by the end of the year.