Chicago alderman accuses mayor's office of lacking transparency in possible Marina City migrant shelter

Chicago reached a milestone in migrant arrivals Wednesday.

More than 20,000 migrants have arrived in the Windy City since Aug. 31, 2022, according to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Of those in Chicago, roughly 11,500 migrants are currently being housed in two dozen city shelters.

Another 3,317 people are still waiting for shelter placement, and in the meantime, most of them are living at Chicago police stations.             

Now, Mayor Brandon Johnson is just hours away from a trip to the U.S. Capitol to press for a meeting with President Joe Biden. Announced Wednesday, he is joining leaders from four other major cities – New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Denver.

"Look, Chicago is leaning in, we have borne the brunt of the responsibility here, that’s not an equitable distribution of how government should operate," said Mayor Brandon Johnson on Wednesday. "From day one, I’ve said that the federal government has to do more."

During their trip, they'll be asking for more emergency funding and for the White House to speed up the approval of work permits, according to Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, who is leading the coalition.

As Chicago’s mayor takes on Capitol Hill, the hunt for housing at home continues.

"I’m working every single day to create spaces and to move people out of police stations," said Johnson.

However, the search for shelter sites hasn't come without controversy.

The full City Council, on Wednesday, was set to vote on the purchase of land at 115th and Halsted for a temperature-controlled migrant encampment. It’s a plan that’s prompted neighborhood protests and fiery meetings – with many residents calling on the city to look elsewhere.  

A decision, however, has been delayed. Wednesday’s vote was deferred and FOX 32 Chicago is told the item will be reconsidered in the coming days.

Also this week, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) revealed the mayor's office was looking to Marina City in River North as a possible shelter site – specifically Hotel Chicago, located in a portion of the complex.

Johnson's administration told FOX 32 Chicago on Tuesday that they were "never exploring that site as a possible migrant shelter."

Reilly, on Wednesday, clapped back saying that's not the full truth.

"While the Administration was correct when they said 333 North Dearborn was not being considered to serve as a migrant facility, they chose to omit the fact that they are considering another address at Marina City for migrant housing," said Reilly.

In a letter to his constituents, Reilly said the address actually being considered is 360 North State Street.

"This morning, my staff contacted the new owners of the former Museum of Broadcast Communications located at 360 North State Street and confirmed that members of the Johnson Administration did recently tour the facility and expressed a strong interest in potentially using the site for future migrant housing."

Reilly went on to say that the mayor’s administration is exhibiting a "total disregard for public transparency."

When asked about the situation Wednesday, Johnson wouldn’t confirm that his administration was considering the site.

"There has been some confusion. Everything that I’ve said, I meant, so if you haven’t heard it from me, then you don’t have to be confused about it," said Johnson. "What I’ve said repeatedly is that we’re looking for locations throughout the entire city, and when we put forth an idea, a particular location and a space, nothing we do is done surreptitiously."

During a special meeting on Thursday morning, the City Council will reconsider a referendum question that would give voters the power to decide if Chicago should remain a sanctuary city.

The resolution was originally brought forth in early October. If it is approved, Chicagoans would see this question at the next scheduled election on March 19, 2024: "Should the City of Chicago continue to keep its designation as a Sanctuary City? Yes or No."

Amid Chicago's recent cold snap, the city has been sending warming buses to at least 16 police districts where migrant families are sleeping in tents on the cold and wet concrete. The buses are being dispatched between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

"Even at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you can develop hypothermia with prolonged exposure or with wet clothing," Beth Amodio, president and CEO of One Warm Coat, said. "And children are more likely to develop hypothermia because their bodies are not able yet to regulate their body temperatures like a healthy adult would be."

According to OEMC, 467 buses have arrived in Chicago since August 2022. 

For information on how to assist new arrivals, CLICK HERE.