NW Side residents voice support and disapproval of plans to house immigrant families at Wilbur Wright College.

At an often tense community meeting Tuesday, Northwest Side residents were divided over the city’s plan to house 400 refugees in a temporary shelter at Wilbur Wright College.

Hundreds of people attended the meeting, which was held in the school’s gymnasium, the same space that will be used to house the immigrants. It nearly derailed at the start when Juan Salgado, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, spoke to the crowd about his support for the city’s plan.

“As chancellor, I’m sure it’s going to be okay,” Salgado said, drawing an energetic round from many and gesturing to 38th Ward Ald. Nick Sposato Take the Mic to Tell Your Constituents Allow Stakeholders to Have Their Say

Ald Nick Sposato (38th) speaks at a community forum. Sposato asked audience members to be respectful when meeting some of the speakers.

Tyler Pascake Lariviere/Suntime

“Please guys, we’re better than this,” Sposato said. “Please be respectful.” Several members of the audience responded to Sposato’s request with applause and cheers. The meeting went ahead as planned, although there was still plenty of noise from the crowd.

Officials at the meeting, which included representatives from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the Chicago Police Department and the Department of Family and Support Services, said the respite shelter would help migrant families who sleep on police station floors.

More than 700 people, including many young children, have had to seek temporary shelter at stations across the city, putting pressure on officials and districts as organizations seek permanent shelter, officials said. Work to find a bed.

“Right now, Wright College is the solution we need,” said Matt Doty, emergency coordinator with OEMC.

Only families will stay in the shelter at the school, located at 4300 N. Narraganset Ave., officials said, and the earliest they can do is Saturday. He will stay in the campus till August 1.

CPD Deputy Chief Stephen Chung said the department would add extra patrols to the area while the migrants were on campus and said incidents at other comfortable shelters were “minimal.”

“You can’t even answer 911 calls anymore,” shouted one audience member.

Some at the meeting welcomed the move, saying it was another chapter in Chicago’s story as a city of immigrants. Many held signs that read “Welcome” and “bienvenidos.”

Others argued that resources used to feed and house migrants should be used to address local problems, such as homelessness. He added that refugees should instead be housed closer to the city in places like Navy Pier and McCormick Place.


The reaction of large crowds to plans to house immigrants at Wilbur Wright College was mixed. Some held welcome signs. Several had concerns about health and safety in the neighborhood. A police official said that patrolling will be increased during the stay of the refugees in the campus.

Tyler Pascic Lariviere/Sun-Times

During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, a woman came up and asked, “How can we help?” Getting more joys and happiness.

“They don’t belong here, they must be bringing disease to the neighborhood,” said one man.

Another woman concerned about safety in the neighborhood asked how the city could guarantee that immigrants would not ignore their 11 p.m. curfew.

“They can just walk around the neighborhood. We have seniors, children, disabled. Do all these people have background checks?” he asked.

Others were concerned about the burden on taxpayers. “Who’s paying for them to come here,” one man asked.

CPD officials were asked if resources devoted to the shelter would leave other areas vulnerable. Chung, the deputy chief, said, “We have plenty of resources. Someone in the crowd yelled, ‘Liar!’

But one woman asked her community to treat immigrants with respect and set a good example for their children, saying, “We teach our children to be kind. Let’s show them compassion. Let’s show them compassion.”

A similar move to turn a shuttered school in a South Shore neighborhood into a respite center for asylum seekers drew outrage from some local residents. One group filed a lawsuit against the city seeking an injunction to stop the project from going ahead.

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