Construction expected this week on two new shelter sites for asylum seekers

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) announced construction will launch this week on two new shelter sites for asylum seekers – a base camp in Brighton Park and a brick-and-mortar site in Little Village. The two new locations are expected to house up to 2,200 asylum seekers.

Work to construct and operate the shelters is being funded by Governor Pritzker’s recently announced $160 million fund to improve the asylum seeker pipeline as well as the $478 million committed to the asylum seeker response over state fiscal year 2023 and 2024.

Beds will be prioritized for families and individuals with disabilities who are currently sleeping outdoors, at police stations and at O’Hare airport.

While construction on both locations will begin this week, asylum seekers will not move into the Brighton Park location until all environmental concerns have been addressed. Pending this work, the shelter sites are expected to open and begin housing asylum seekers as early as mid-December.

12th Ward Ald. Julia Ramirez is opposed to the tent shelter in Brighton Park.

“The administration’s decision to proceed without addressing our concerns not only undermines transparency and efforts of co-governance, but also disregards the well being of everyone in our community, including the asylum seekers who have come to our great city seeking safety and refuge,” she said in a letter addressed to the community and posted to social media on the weekend.

“It is essential for residents of this community to be fully aware of the environmental impacts and potential risks associated with this project.

“We have a right to know if the site is safe.”

The two sites will operate as a part of the existing City of Chicago shelter system with New Life Centers of Chicagoland contracted by the State to provide on the ground support, including quality assurance and community-care services, like conflict resolution, onsite communications, community engagement, and connection with local resources.

“Since asylum seekers arrived in Chicago over a year ago, IDHS has met the call for needed wraparound support. IDHS is heartened to see and be a part of the City of Chicago and State’s ongoing work in partnership to meet new arrivals with dignity as we continue to clear obstacles on their pathway to employment and independence,” said Dulce Quintero, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services.

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