Dozens of asylum-seeking migrants who have been sheltering at an Oak Park church since the Halloween snowfall will temporarily shelter in two Oak Park locations for about a month under plans the village released Tuesday night.
According to the plans, the West Cook YMCA will house women and children in 40 rooms on one floor. Although each room is single occupancy, each can hold up to three people, meeting the village’s occupancy ordinances. About 50 people will move there.
The Carleton Hotel will house other migrants in 13 rooms that will be open later this week, although more rooms could become available. The rooms will be available for 28 days, just under the threshold for renters’ rights to take effect, which permits people to overstay in a location without funding.
These families and individuals will stay at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, a designated warming center, until about Nov. 11, although some may move out earlier. Roughly 120 people have been staying there, nearly shoulder-to-shoulder in the church’s basement.
Another 60 have been residing at United Lutheran Church on Greenfield Street and 20 more are at Calvary Memorial Church on Lake Street. These have been volunteer-run endeavors.
Oak Park officials who are leading the efforts, with volunteers such as Housing Forward, said nine people could shelter in the police station lobby, if needed. However, plans are underway to find other shelters so that this option won’t be needed.
With this, officials said, the village is at capacity and has little, if any other space to shelter migrants.
The cost to the village for this next month’s worth of plans is estimated to top $369,580. That includes food, janitorial services, translation services, housing and medical care.
The move comes after Oak Park village trustees passed an emergency declaration last week that gave Village Manager Kevin Jackson the spending authority to address immediate needs for the growing migrant crisis in the area.
The declaration will be reviewed Dec. 4. Until then, Jackson has the authority to purchase food, transportation or other items for asylum-seeking migrants, volunteers or the Oak Park church that has been housing dozens of people over the past week. It will also permit him to more easily manage logistics, such as reallocating staff to help with tasks such as trash collection without interrupting everyday village operations.
“We’ve had no option but to react,” said Village President Vicki Scaman before the meeting.
The village Monday was awarded $250,000 through the Supporting Municipalities for Asylum Seeker Services grant. Earlier this month, the village was awarded a $150,000 grant to plan how to act as a pass-through for future funds to partner with local agencies that provide services to migrants and unhoused people. The village matched that grant with American Rescue Plan Act funds, so the amount initially available for the emergency response was $300,000. This gives the village $550,000 to spend on these emergency services.
Volunteers began bringing refugees, most of them from Venezuela, to Oak Park’s village hall on Oct. 31, Halloween night, after temperatures plummeted and snow hit the area. O’Hare International Airport recorded .9 inches of snow, only the third time the area had measurable snowfall on Halloween since recordkeeping began in the 19th century, weather records showed.
As the night unfolded, volunteers brought about 50 people from Chicago’s 15th District police station in Austin at about 10:30 p.m., worried that because they were sleeping outside, they’d risk suffering from exposure.
However, the lobby at Oak Park’s police station, located at village hall on Madison Street, was too small to hold the growing number of families gathered there.
Scaman said that at about 1 a.m., she called the pastor at her church, Good Shepherd Lutheran, for help. The congregation opened its doors.
Estimates show that at least 20,000 migrants are seeking refuge in Chicago, most of them bused in from Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott. They have been sleeping at O’Hare or police stations, and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson has proposed using winterized tents or other structures as shelter.
Officials said migrants who move to Oak Park from Chicago will lose access to housing under city programs. They have been notified and some have opted to return to Chicago.
Good Shepherd is seeking volunteers to help with cleaning and other tasks. The congregation no longer is looking for direct donations. To help, visit: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/904054FAEA62AA0FF2-45883422-good?useFullSite=true#/