Hundreds show up for meeting on plan to house asylum seekers at Wright College; families could start moving to Wright on May 27
by BRIAN NADIG
Migrant families could start moving into Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett Ave., as early as May 27, according to city officials.
Wright will be used to house families with children under age 18, and plans call for the asylum seekers to depart Wright by Aug. 1. Those living at Wright will be allowed to leave the campus but will have to abide by an 11 p.m. curfew under the plan.
Those were among the updates given to the 450 people who attended a May 23 community meeting on the city’s plan to use Wright as a temporary shelter.
A large number of meeting attendees booed when City Colleges of Chicago chancellor Juan Salgado said of the Wright shelter plan, “As chancellor, I’m confident this will go well.” He said that previously Truman College was used as a shelter and it went well.
In response to a question about how Wright got involved, Salgado said, “We raised our hand to help the city of Chicago.” His response was greeted by a large mix of boos and applause.
Priority access to the meeting was given to 38th residents, as IDs were checked at the door. The meeting was held at the request of 38th Ward Alderman Nicholas Sposato. The Wright campus is located in his ward.
Sposato said before the meeting that city officials have said that the 16th (Jefferson Park) Police District Station, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave., will not be used as a temporary living center for migrants once Wright becomes a shelter. About 800 asylum seekers are living on a temporary basis in police district lobbies in the city, awaiting placement in a shelter.
Sposato said that he first learned of the Wright plan through an “anonymous call” to his office on May 11 and got confirmation of the plan on May 16. He said that on May 18 city officials agreed to the community meeting.
“I believe residents have a right” to learn about the plan, Sposato said.
Laundry services, cots, towels, showers and food will be provided for the families at Wright, according to the presentation at the meeting. Health screenings will be available at a nearby health clinic.
Officials said that 200 sites for shelters have been vetted but it’s difficult to find locations that meet all needs. Leases for privately owned buildings are considered, but landlords often want leases for several years and rents are high, one official said.
Up to 400 people will be housed at Wright under the plan.
City Colleges is requiring that the shelter be closed by Aug. 1, and an Office of Emergency Management and Communications representative said that the city has kept its word on closing deadlines for other temporary shelter locations.
There have been “minimal incidents” at the shelters, Chicago police deputy superintendent Stephen Chung said.
Chung said that the Wright plan will help bring relief to police stations, where some lobbies are filled with people living on a temporary basis. He added that many officers have bought food and supplies for the migrants.
One resident received a round of applause when she asked how the community can help those who will be living at Wright.
Officials said that residents should work with their elected officials or check the city’s Web site.
Another resident said that the community should blame Texas officials, including the Texas governor, for the influx of migrants to Chicago and not be upset with the city’s efforts to help the migrants.
One man recommended using McCormick Place instead of Wright.
“It seems like the whole thing was dumped on us,” a woman said of the Wright plan.
A city official responded, “This fell on on us (on) Aug. 31, 2022,” referring to when the first bus of migrants arrived from Texas in Chicago.
Another meeting participant said, “They don’t belong here (and) they’ll be bringing disease.”
On an couple occasions, Sposato warned the crowd to be civil and polite. “We’re much better than that,” Sposato said.
In response to a question, one meeting panelist said that the migrants are fingerprinted as part of a background check when they first arrive.
“How could you not be prepared for this,” a man said, criticizing the city’s planning for the migrant crisis.
“The buses started coming without warning,” Maura McCauley of the city Department of Family and Support Services said. She added that using a public facility such as Wright costs significantly less than renting a hotel.
One resident expressed concern that police will be making visits to the Wright shelter. “If they’re making frequent visits here, then they’re not out there,” he said, pointing to the neighborhood.
“Wright College is part of our community,” Chung responded.
The plan includes using a private security contractor.
Another man said that the opposition to the Wright plan is motivated by fear.
“I’m very sad to see we’re not showing empathy to the families coming here,” another resident said.
“I see drug dealing on my block,” a meeting attendee said, expressing concern that the Wright plan will pull police resources from neighborhoods.
Chung told the resident that he would talk to her after the meeting about her concerns.
In response to a question, a panelist said that the shelters have a good neighbor policy and that issues of trespassing on private property will be addressed but that it has not been a problem at other temporary shelters.
“I just think the ignorance in this room is a lot,” a woman said.