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Chicago to extend migrant shelter stay limits over concerns about long-term housing, employment

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson will again extend its 60-day limit on shelter stays for asylum seekers

Sophia Tareen
Monday 29 January 2024 23:35 GMT
Migrants Chicago
Migrants Chicago

Chicago will again extend its 60-day limit on shelter stays for asylum seekers, Mayor Brandon Johnson announced, just days ahead of a deadline that could have evicted nearly 2,000 migrants.

Johnson said Monday the idea is to give people more time to resettle and find work. The policy change adds 30 to 60 more days for roughly 14,000 migrants already living in the city’s 28 shelters, which include warehouses and park district buildings.

Chicago has twice delayed enforcement due to weather.

“Our plan for temporary emergency shelter was never meant as a long-term housing solution, but we want to give every person and every single family that has come to our city enough time to process their work authorization, find housing, start a new life in our great city,” Johnson said at a City Hall news conference.

Chicago and other U.S. cities, including New York and Denver, have put shelter limits in place as they struggle to house and care for the growing population of migrants arriving by bus and plane. Mayors have also pleaded for more federal help.

Chicago has had a hard time finding space and has also relied on using police stations, airports, and city buses as short-term solutions.

Extensions will be based on migrants' original dates to exit the system and will be either 30 or 60 days, city officials said. The earliest notices to leave will now come in mid-March.

For example, nearly 2,000 people who were set to leave on Thursday will now get another 60 days. City officials said less than half had been able to apply for rental assistance to help them live independently.

Any migrants newly entering shelters will get the standard 60 days. There will be exceptions, including for people who are pregnant or ill. Once evicted, arrivals would have to re-apply to stay in shelters.

More than 35,000 migrants have been sent to Chicago since 2022, largely under the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Roughly 11,500 have been resettled through a state program and about 4,100 have left the shelter system after connecting with friends and family.

The city's shelter limits have been criticized, most recently by a group of aldermen who wrote Johnson a letter last week asking him to scrap the limits out of concern over the health and safety of new arrivals, particularly in the winter. Conditions at some shelters have also been in the spotlight, including after the death of a young boy living at a shelter who suffered a medical emergency in December.

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