A temporary shelter in Woodlawn for recently arrived asylum seekers that has sparked controversy is not expected to open this week, according to Ald. Janet Taylor, whose 20th Ward includes the property.

City officials confirmed last week that 6420 S. James Wadsworth Elementary School, located on University Avenue, will be turned into a temporary shelter for newly arrived immigrants seeking asylum. A spokeswoman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office did not return requests seeking comment Thursday about the delay in opening.

The shelter, which was slated to open Friday, will instead open at a later date to allow for another community forum, which residents had pushed for, Taylor said. The opening will also be contingent on the creation of a safety and security plan in and around the property.

“I feel like my heart was in the ground,” Taylor said. “I feel like it’s back in my chest.”

Since late August, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has sent hundreds of asylum seekers to Democrat-led cities like Chicago. As of last week, more than 3,850 asylum seekers had arrived on chartered buses from Texas, according to city officials. In addition, the city has provided services for 1,400 asylum seekers who have arrived in Chicago in recent months.

In a statement released on Thursday, Lightfoot said the city was at “maximum capacity” in housing and services for asylum seekers.

“Thus, it would be inhumane for cities and states to continue sending migrants to Chicago. Migrants should be treated like freight. It’s simply unethical,” Lightfoot said in a prepared statement that did not address the Wadsworth estate.

While some Woodlawn residents oppose the shelter outright, others want the city to answer their questions, Taylor said.

“It was imposed on us,” she said. “It’s not like they came to the community or me.”

The delay in opening meant that Taylor would not be among the residents who had planned to protest the shelter. Taylor had said there was concern about the impact of the shelter on Woodlawn residents and newly arrived asylum seekers who would not be near immigrant resources.

Jennifer Maddox, an aldermanic candidate for the 20th Ward, said she was not informed about the delayed opening, but other residents received an email from the city late Wednesday indicating that another community The date has been pushed back to allow for the meeting. Maddox was among a group of residents who held a news conference Thursday morning to air their concerns.

“We want the mayor to actually come to Woodlawn to talk to the residents,” Maddox said by phone Thursday afternoon. “They want to see him, they want to talk to him. They want him to answer for himself why he decided to do this.

Maddox said she attended a community forum held in late December, but she left with few answers. One of their biggest concerns about the temporary shelter centers is security.

He said there is also a sense that the Woodlawn community’s demand for resources is being ignored, while funds are diverted to the community of new asylum seekers. Maddox said this left residents feeling as if they had been “slapped in the face” or not getting enough of the resources.

Maddox said, “We are not against immigrants at all.” “But we need to understand that there are existing populations of people who reside or are in the community who also need certain resources. We want to make sure it’s equitable for everyone.”

Community concerns about the shelter come as Lightfoot has pushed for lawmakers to provide the city with more funding to help asylum seekers. Late last week, Lightfoot sent a letter to Illinois legislators requesting $53.5 million to continue providing emergency resources.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.



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