Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

As winter draws near, Chicago struggles to accommodate immigrants.

By HENRY Nov 26, 2023

City and state authorities are working feverishly to locate long-term accommodation for thousands of migrants already jammed into congested shelters, as well as refuge for over 2,000 migrants who are now living in airports, police stations, and on the streets of Chicago as the city prepares for its harsh winter.

Proponents, however, are sceptical about whether recently stated initiatives by local and state authorities to facilitate immigrants’ quicker integration into the city would be effective or aggravate the humanitarian situation sparked by the busing of thousands of Texans into the city.

Source : NBC NEWS

Β©Charles Rex Arbogast / AP file

Karina Ayala-Bermejo, the CEO and president of the Instituto del Progreso Latino, which provides case management and other programmes for migrants, stated, “So much is riding on Chicago winter, and we can’t afford for anyone in our beautiful state or city to freeze because we didn’t figure this out, to die because we didn’t figure this out.”

Based on a municipal census of new arrivals, as of Monday morning, there were 12,251 migrants residing in 26 operational city-run shelters, and an additional 2,175 waiting for placement at O’Hare and Midway airports, as well as inside and outside police stations. Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s migrant busing programme reached Chicago in August 2022, more over 21,700 migrants and asylum seekers have arrived, according to the city.Chicago

Chicago’s social welfare system is under pressure from the inflow.

Not enough beds have been provided for those in need of refuge. Additionally, advocates claim that the transition from short-term shelter to long-term, independent living has been excruciatingly sluggish.

“How do you prioritise an ecosystem that is already in crisis?” is the key question. stated Ayala-Bermejo.Chicago

Johan Martinez Hernandez, 35, has been looking for an apartment in Chicago for three months, along with roughly 600 other migrants, and he says that the housing hunt has been “very difficult.” He was bused into the city, along with thousands of others, and has since had difficulty establishing himself.Chicago

Β©Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

Martinez Hernandez was hoping that last week’s visit to yet another apartment would be his ticket out of the overcrowded shelter.

Martinez Hernandez, a Venezuelan who came to the United States to seek refuge, stated in Spanish, “I really hope they rent to me.”

Moving into a flat, he said, would enable him to get employment legally and establish stability in his life in a new location.

Martinez Hernandez said, “You can’t survive like this forever.Chicago

The state and city have imposed new limitations on the assistance that migrants can receive as part of a plan to eventually transition people out of shelters and into permanent housing. The stated objective of these restrictions is to expedite the process of moving people into independent living by reducing the number of days they can stay in shelter and the amount of rental assistance they can receive.

Β©Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune via Getty Images file

Governor J.B. Pritzker said last week that in order to clear up “bottlenecks” in the “asylum-seeker resettlement pipeline,” the state will spend an extra $160 million. This comprises, according to the governor, the following: an additional $65 million to build “winterized” temporary housing for up to 2,000 migrants and guarantee safe and warm places for migrants to live during the winter; $30 million to open an intake centre; and an additional $65 million to expand case management, housing assistance, and legal services.

Additionally, the state is cutting the rental aid it provides to asylum seekers in shelters from up to six months to three months of rent. This would “allow all current shelter residents to access” the rent-assistance programme, according to the governor’s office. However, the programme will no longer be accessible to recently arrived immigrants, the state said, while “housing assistance will still be provided to support landlord-tenant communications, the housing search process, and tenant rights.”

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said that the city will start capping a person’s stay in shelter at 60 days.

The city said on its website that “the objective of the 60-day limited stay policy is to accelerate how new arrivals engage with the emergency shelter system.” “The City can meet the immediate needs of new individuals and families arriving in Chicago on a daily basis, including providing direct access to public benefits and other supports during their 60-day stay, while simultaneously supporting current residents on a pathway to self-sufficiency.”

According to the city, interim extensions may be given to migrants “under extenuating circumstances,” such as “severe cold weather or medical crises.” According to the city, a migrant may go back to the city’s “landing zone” and ask for a new shelter placement if they are not qualified for an extension and have not yet found lodging.

Proponents said that the modifications may make it more difficult to get shelter and perhaps cause asylum seekers to slip through the gaps and end up on the streets during the freezing winter.

Reducing rent assistance is “like a gut punch for me,” said Rev. Kenneth Phelps, who assists immigrants in finding accommodation and participates in several programmes to help them adjust to life in Chicago. “That ties our hands up so tight.”

As most asylum-seekers lack the paperwork typically required during the renting process and do not yet have work permits, Phelps said it has already been challenging to locate landlords and property managers prepared to rent to migrants with up to six months of financial assistance. He was afraid cutting the programme would make it seem like a more difficult procedure.

“I’m feeling so down about myself. The city will never be able to fulfil its commitments, according to Phelps.

Ayala-Bermejo said that in order to ensure that migrants do not miss out on housing possibilities and social assistance, a 60-day restriction on shelter stays would need “intensive case management.”

She stated, “We have to be careful not to throw away all the good that has been invested in that person, in that family, because that will be lost if they’re just getting by and adding to the homeless population.”

In addition, she said that the federal, state, and local governments should continue to support the migrants once they find accommodation, extending their support “to work authorization, work development, and work opportunities, so they can sustain themselves.”

After they have a job, “you cannot then pull the carpet from under them,” the woman said. In order to assist them maintain their employment, you must keep funding case management and other support programmes. You also need to keep up with rent payments so they don’t become homeless.

The reduction of rental assistance to three months may make it more difficult for migrants to find housing, but Matt DeMateo, the chief executive officer of New Life Centres of Chicagoland, a nonprofit that assists the state with resettlement, noted that in the long run, more migrants may be able to benefit from the programme.

Another component of the state’s strategy, according to DeMateo, will help with the immigration situation. By February, 11,000 applications for work permission and temporary protected status will be submitted.

He said, “Once that opens up, people can get on a stable path.” “The goal is to improve the system as a whole with all of those investments so we can overcome this and get past these bottlenecks.”

According to information released by the state last week, since August 2022, almost 9,000 migrants have been relocated both within the state of Illinois and beyond it, either with family members or in permanent homes.

Oscar PeΓ±alver Sanchez aspires to be one of them shortly. He just moved into his own apartment, having spent the previous year or so living in a shelter with over 150 other migrants.

He expressed his gratitude for having “somewhere to sleep and lay our heads” while still saying in Spanish, “It’s a huge relief because it’s difficult to stay in the shelters for so long.”

He is now seeking for a work visa in the hopes that it would help him reach his goal of financial independence.

“I wish to work and take on life head-on,” he said.

 

By HENRY

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