Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Why All the Secrecy? You Be the Judge


By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

The Pritzker Administration is building a migrant shelter in the Midway area.

The governor chose to release the information quietly via the Illinois Department of Human Services portion of state government's website. It's a cowardly way to release information. Pritzker is normally not at all shy about holding press conferences to say how compassionate he is regarding people in need.
Governor JB Pritzker

On top of that, the governor refused to say exactly where the new shelter is "due to public safety and privacy considerations."

So, since this is a state government matter, I reached out via email to State Rep. Angelica "Angie" Guerrero-Cuellar (D-22nd), whose district includes much of the Midway area, to see if the governor's mystery shelter is located in her district.

But instead of replying directly, as she normally does, she had a public relations firm issue a statement on behalf of her and State Senator Mike Porfirio (D-11th):

"We were informed by press release that the Illinois Department of Human Services plans to move forward with their plans to operate a state-run migrant shelter in our districts. Without sufficient information on how the state plans to protect the safety of the shelter and the surrounding community, we cannot support this plan. Our local 8th Chicago Police District is already stretched thin and will be challenged to support a shelter of 950 migrants. Opening a shelter in July does not allow for proper planning or ensure that our concerns are met. Local residents have had no say in this plan, and we will not ignore their valid concerns about safety and utilizing local resources."

Tough-talk word salads aside, the statement did not say where the new shelter is. So I asked a follow up question and received this reply from the public relations firm:

"Apparently IDHS is the owner of that information."

My follow-up question: "But obviously, both Senator Porfirio and Rep. Guerrero-Cuellar know where it is. Correct?"

A two-word response:

"They do."

Anyway, while that email exchange was occurring, a SWCP news reporter found out that the governor's mystery migrant shelter is the newly vacant Holiday Inn at the northwest corner of Ford City, 7353 S. Cicero. The reporter took a photo of workers pulling furniture out of fourth-floor rooms at the back of the 54-year-old hotel. And at the front desk, a Holiday Inn staffer confirmed that the hotel will soon be a migrant shelter.
The front entrance of the vacant Holiday Inn.

So, why all the cloak-and-dagger nonsense from our elected officials?

In my opinion, it's to get the migrants housed as quickly as possible, to prevent whatever neighborhood opposition there might be from gathering momentum. Heaven forbid that voters find out what their elected officials are doing, right?

It may also be that Pritzker is trying to sweep as many migrants under the rug as possible before the Democratic National Convention hits town at the United Center in particular and the Loop in general, on August 19.
Workers remove furniture from 4th floor.

Regarding the establishment of a shelter there, I am neither for nor against. It may be a good idea. Maybe not.

I do wonder about the children who will be housed there. Where will they attend school? The nearest public school is six blocks north: Azuela Elementary, 4707 W. 67th Street, which I hear is overcrowded as it is.

Anyway, I'm sure there will be plenty of local debate about the idea of putting migrants at the Holiday Inn. You be the judge.

And in the interest of fairness, here is Pritzker's press release, in its entirety:

* * *

CHICAGO (June 25)—Additional State-supported shelters are beginning to serve New Arrivals in Chicago. Two new shelters, operating as part of the City of Chicago’s existing shelter system, will prioritize families as they transition to independent living. This is in addition to a State-supported shelter in Little Village, bringing the total of State-supported and funded shelters in Chicago to three, with a total combined capacity of 2,000 people.

These latest additions to shelter capacity advance the State’s commitment to a joint funding plan with Cook County and the City of Chicago to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis presented by the arrival of over 43,000 New Arrivals from the U.S. southern border.

“In Illinois, we’re implementing our comprehensive data-driven plan to improve our response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis and amplify the effectiveness of State, County, and City investments,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The additional temporary shelters will ensure that shelter capacity and wraparound services remain accessible to asylum seeker families as they transition out of our system of care and on to independence.”

“I’m thankful to our partners and the contributions across City, State, County, and nonprofit sectors. These additional shelters provide meaningful support to families seeking stability as they take their next steps toward independence,” said Dulce M. Quintero, IDHS Secretary Designate.

Hyde Park Shelter

A former hotel shelter that was previously used to quarantine New Arrivals from measles is serving as a facility for standard shelter operations now that the outbreak has passed. The hotel has been retrofitted to serve as a more traditional shelter site.

Under the guidance of public health officials, the State-funded quarantine shelter was decommissioned for quarantine in early May, allowing the State to transition the site to a shelter for families, with a maximum capacity to house 750 people.

Midway Shelter

Buildout for the next State-supported shelter at a former hotel on the Southwest side of Chicago began last week. The plan is to begin moving in families in July. This shelter has a maximum capacity of 950 residents.

Little Village Shelter

In addition to the newest shelters, IDHS opened a State-supported shelter at a former CVS in Little Village at the beginning of the year. At this shelter, and at all New Arrivals shelters across Chicago, IDHS provides shelter residents with a variety of wraparound services and supports to enhance independence and onward movement. This shelter can house up to 300 people.

Addresses of the above shelters are not being shared broadly due to public safety and privacy considerations

Ongoing State Support

Last November, Governor Pritzker announced a $160 million data-informed investment to improve the New Arrivals response – in addition to the $478 million that had already been earmarked by the State to support New Arrivals over Fiscal Years 2023 and 2024.

As part of the $160 million data-driven investment in November, funds have been used to improve the New Arrivals response and address bottlenecks, with IDHS continuing to operate the Intake Center, opened in February 2024.

Co-located with the City of Chicago’s Landing Zone, the Intake Center offers New Arrivals immediate wraparound services and helps connect people with sponsors, or with an alternate destination to continue along on their journey. Cook County Health also provides vaccinations to New Arrivals at the Intake Center and coordinates initial health screening appointments for a rapid connection to health care.

Since the State began funding diversion and outmigration efforts, over 7,500 people have reunited with family or friends in other U.S. states and cities.

The State has been funding New Life Centers and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago to provide support, outside, at the bus Landing Zone, as of early November 2023 and at the Intake Center. ​ ​

The State supported shelters will continue operations in Fiscal Year 2025 as part of the joint funding agreement between the City of Chicago and Cook County. The State is committed to investing $182 million in FY25.

Advocating for Federal Coordination

Governor Pritzker has repeatedly advocated for federal intervention to aid in the management of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, which has been exacerbated by the GOP Governor of Texas sending buses of migrants to Democrat-run cities, without any information or coordination. The State, City of Chicago, and Cook County continue to step up in lieu of a federal solution, which is needed for a federal challenge.

# # #

No comments:

Post a Comment