Plan for potential migrant shelter in Roseland draws pushback from some residents

Frustrated residents say the area is already dealing with homelessness, hunger and crime, while other local leaders welcome the idea of a new shelter

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A meeting attended by 21st Ward Ald. Ronnie Mosley with church leaders and Roseland residents was held Wednesday evening to discuss the potential for a migrant shelter in the area.

Ald. Mosley said Mayor Brandon Johnson approached him about a vacant site near the intersection of West 115th Street and South Halsted Street to place a migrant basecamp with tents.

The lot, once the site of a grocery store, has been vacant for several years.

“No decision has been made. It was never confirmed," Mosley said at the meeting.

Mosley mentioned several challenges with with the site, including the area having two different owners. One owner has a portion of the site up for sale. He also said he hopes to develop the lot into a 12-acre commons in the coming years.

As more than 2,000 migrants are currently sleeping on police district floors, Mayor Johnson requested that every member of City Council come up with two or three sites in their wards that can house hundreds of migrants.

While Mosley told his community the site at 115th and Halsted is not a done deal, they wanted to know where else they could go.

"What sites immediately have you proposed that we might see asylum-seekers," one resident asked Mosley.

“I honestly don’t know," he responded. "When I started this conversation, I really thought the 21st ward was safe, because we didn’t have the opportunity."

Mosley said he is coordinating another meeting with Johnson to discuss the plans, though it is not clear when that meeting will take place.

“We have concerns about the homeless we already have, but also the ones that are coming," said local Yolanda Wicks. "We’re plagued by... homelessness, hunger, violence," her friend Brenda Gilbert added.

Pastor Leonardo Gilbert offered a different perspective.

"I’m going to welcome them," he said. “This is not their fault to be on the floors of a police station or outdoors. I would want someone to treat me the same way. These are my neighbors. They may not speak the same language, they may not share the same geography before, but they are people who are in need, who need help and we as a church will do all we can.”

The city already has 18 shelters, and 21 out of 22 police districts are being used as temporary shelters. The 21st Ward is not currently home to any migrant shelters.

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