More Than Half of Migrants Forced to Leave City Shelters Immediately Returned, Chicago Officials Say


Heather Cherone

Approximately 55% of the more than 900 migrants evicted from city shelters had nowhere else to go, and continue to live in city facilities, Chicago officials told WTTW News.

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration began enforcing a 60-day limit on shelter stays for most adults in mid-March, pledging to redouble efforts to help them live independently after many arrived on buses from the southern border paid for by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

But the acknowledgement that approximately 500 people would be unhoused months after arriving in Chicago raises new questions about plans by officials to start evicting families with school-age children from city shelters Monday. The academic year for Chicago Public Schools students ended Friday, eliminating the dispensation granted to families with children.

When city officials announced they would not force families to leave city shelters before the end of the school year, they said that exemption covered 4,500 people who had been told they would have to leave city shelters in March, April and May, officials said.

City officials do “not expect a mass exit from shelters” starting Monday because a “number of extensions remain in place and shelter exit dates are staggered according to when individuals entered the shelter,” according to a statement from Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Brandie Knazze.

However, 121 people who are members of families are scheduled to be asked to leave city shelters between Tuesday and June 18, officials said.

The city of Chicago continues to maintain one of the most generous shelter stay policies for asylum seekers of any major city in the United States,” Knazze said. “The city of Chicago has been clear that all residents have the option to re-enter temporary shelter sites when they reach their shelter exit date if they have been unable to secure housing.”

Everyone living in a city shelter “receive case management and wrap-around services to help them on their journey to independence,” Knazze said, adding that meetings about migrants’ plans to leave shelters must take place 45 days before they are asked to leave, and then again 21 days before their eviction date. Eviction notices are delivered 10 days before they will be asked to leave and then again three days before the eviction date.

Individuals living in city shelters can apply for exemptions from the 60-day limit if they are awaiting benefits from another government agency, are pregnant or are caring for an infant, officials said. Those who are under a doctor’s care, are facing threats of violence or were recently bereaved can also apply to stay, officials said.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) renewed his call for Johnson to end the 60-day limit on shelter stays, saying forcing migrants to leave one shelter, return to the designated “landing zone” for buses from Texas at Polk and Desplaines streets in the West Loop, reapply for shelter and be sent to another facility makes no sense.

In all, Chicago taxpayers spent $148.7 million between August 2022 and May 10 to care for approximately 43,000 migrants. Another $223 million in grant funds from the state and federal governments were used to care for the migrants, according to city records.

All of the migrants are in the country legally after requesting asylum and most were sent to Chicago by Abbott, the Republican Texas governor, as part of an effort to damage President Joe Biden’s chances for re-election and divide Democratic voters.

City officials have been warning for more than a year that Abbott would send as many buses of migrants to Chicago as possible to cause chaos in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention.

However, warnings of a new surge of migrants to Chicago, alongside the seasonal increase of people crossing the southern border to request asylum in advance of the convention, have yet to materialize.

A new policy implemented by Biden this week could curtail the number of migrants allowed to enter the country after requesting asylum could reduce the number of men, women and children making their way to Chicago and New York, easing pressure on Johnson and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

The number of migrants arriving in Chicago has risen 4.8% in the past month, according to city officials.

Fewer than 7,000 people were living in 17 city facilities as of Thursday, a 13% drop since May 6, according to city data.

Contact Heather Cherone: [email protected]m