Migrants begin moving into Wadsworth Elementary School as temporary shelter Thursday despite opposition from residents – Chicago Tribune

Migrants have begun to move into a former school-turned-shelter Thursday in the Woodlawn neighborhood despite continued resistance from some nearby residents.

Even after several community meetings with representatives from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration, Woodlawn residents took a strong stand against the migrant shelter built inside the former Wadsworth Elementary School.

Despite the opposition, the city has begun to settle about 250 migrants at the school Thursday, according to an email from Lightfoot’s Office of Community Engagement.

According to the email, multiple city departments are finalizing the move-in and alerted the residents of increased activity around the site as the move-in begins.

The Wadsworth shelter is part of the city’s response to the thousands of migrants who have arrived in Chicago on more than 100 buses from Texas and Colorado since August. The city still sees an average of 10 new arrivals per day, according to the Department of Family and Support Services. The shelter was set to open last month but was delayed after pushback from Woodlawn residents.

The shelter will have 24/7 security at all entrances provided by the city, and the Chicago Police Department is implementing a community safety plan, which includes regular visits to the shelter.

Residents of the shelter will receive and sign a copy of the shelter’s rules and expectations upon moving in, the city said. Rules include signing in and out when entering or exiting the shelter, abiding by an 11 pm curfew, not allowing visitors and not using drugs or alcohol on the property.

Cmdr. Roderick Watson of the 3rd District will host a discussion on community safety at 10 am Friday and another community meeting will take place at 5:30 pm Feb. 16.

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The Woodlawn residents who oppose the transformation of the neighborhood’s shuttered Wadsworth Elementary School into temporary housing for migrants who were bused to Chicago say their already-struggling community cannot take on another influx of people in need.

“While I’ll love to help immigrants and everybody else, I’ll like to help my own first,” said longtime Woodlawn resident Jean Clark in early January.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor, 20th, said her office de ella and her residents de ella were initially kept in the dark about the future of the school and the city’s plan to convert it into temporary housing. She added that the opposition from the neighborhood should not be seen as anti-immigrant sentiment but rather as residents feeling disrespected by the city’s plan to repurpose a school that the community had fought to keep open.

During a community meeting Saturday, Brandie Knazze, commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services, responded to concerns raised by residents. She said no resources were diverted from the community or other programs to help the migrants.

“This is a state of emergency,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure that residents are treated with dignity and respect and that they have a safe place to stay while they figure out their next destination.”

This is a developing story. Check back for more.

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