CHICAGO (WLS) — West Town residents expressed concerns about a shelter meant to house up to 200 single migrant men.
Speakers at a meeting about the plan Thursday night said they are primarily concerned about possible safety issues that may come with the temporary shelter. City officials said they are prepared to handle those concerns.
The new arrivals temporary shelter is set to open in the 36th Ward near Smith Park.
“Smith Park is primarily a neighborhood of single family homes and two flats,” said one resident speaking at the meeting.
Neighbors living within blocks of the shelter near Western and Ohio were told by city officials that it will house up to 200 single men, which became a point of contention.
“We have babies that go to that park every day and we rely on that park and how are we going to keep that park safe,” said one resident.
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“Why is this shelter focusing on single men at a location that is across from a liquor store and two blocks from a park,” asked another resident.
City officials and police said they vow to do what they can to keep the public safe and refuted the notion that the shelter’s residents were inherently more dangerous.
“It being a single adult male facility does not mean crime will increase or people will inherently be unsafe,” said Danny Castaneda, director of new arrivals for the Department of Family and Support Services.
The city is opening new shelters every six days as it faces an influx of new arrivals and the Texas governor has dramatically increased the fleet of buses he’s sending to Chicago. Officials said that makes the need for community support more important than ever.
“The more that we can plug in community resources that people have somewhere to go and more productive things to do, the safer the shelter becomes,” said Beatriz Ponce de Leon, Deputy Mayor for Immigrant, Migrant and Refugee rights.
The city’s plan to move people out of police stations into basecamps is imminent, but in Thursday’s briefing they did not have an exact timeline or locations.