As the weather gets cooler, volunteers, churches, and welfare groups in Chicago are working hard to find a warm place to stay for migrants.
Many immigrant families who had nowhere to reside were relocated from cold city streets to the warm basement inside Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in a neighboring suburb when the first wave of winter weather reached Chicago.
Around 1 a.m., workers and officials from the suburb of Oak Park worked together to come up with a last-minute, temporary answer. Chicago has been having a hard time finding places to house the growing number of refuge seekers before the winter months. Mayor Brandon Johnson wants to build additional shelters along with tents that can be used in the winter to accommodate the migrants who are presently sleeping on the floors of police stations, in airport terminals, and on sidewalks. However, workers, churches, and even some aldermen say what’s being done is too slow and not working well enough.
Over 3,000 are living in airports as well as police stations until they can find new homes. Some were forced to move into tents on nearby streets and in empty lots because it is too crowded.
Most of the work of providing food and clothes has been done by volunteer groups, who now say they are also giving winter survival advice. Most refugees who are used to warmer areas are not used to the idea of layering clothes. This week, it was only in the low 30s, which is about 0 Celsius.
The tents that were given away were kept warm with boxes, blankets, and tarps that covered them. Some refugees plug heaters in their tents with extension cords they get from police offices.
For the last three weeks, Venezuelan Gleicy Martinez, 27, and her two kids which includes a 9-year-old blind child, have been residing in a tent outside of a police station. Her mother and sister are among the other family members who reside in nearby tents.
Because they aren’t used to the weather, they don’t leave the tent very often. Chicago was impacted by snowstorms this week. They tried to seek shelter inside the police station, but unfortunately, it was already full, so they walked over to a close by Target store to get warmed up.
“The snowstorm caught us off guard,” Martinez said this week. “We had no idea it would snow.”
This week, the city made a big deal out of its winter efforts, which included giving newcomers winter clothes and 16 “warming buses” to stay at police stations nightly. This past month, the city talked up its relationships with outside groups that provide food, clothes, and personal care items.
Four other city mayors, along with Johnson, wrote to President Biden this week to ask to meet to talk about getting more government money.
The spokesperson for Johnson, Ronnie Reese, stated in an email, “With colder weather approaching Chicago, we have reached a more critical point when it comes to our humanitarian effort to welcome asylum seekers into our city.”