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Chicago Shelter System in Shambles as Migrants Dig Through Trash for Food While Living in Buses

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Asylum seekers
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The migrant crisis in Chicago continues to worsen despite the city’s best efforts. And now, reports claim hundreds of migrants in the city are residing in buses. With some reduced to digging through trash bins just to find sustenance. 

In the past 16 months, about 34,000 migrants have entered Chicago. And buses full of fresh arrivals keep rolling in regularly. The city initially turned to its police precincts to aid the housing of the migrants.

That barely worked. And with the city’s 27 shelter buildings buckling under the pressure, authorities had to find other housing options. In the meantime, migrants struggle for the bare necessities.

Eight “warming buses” were added to its West Loop in December to try to ease some of the load. However, there is only so much comfort a bus can provide, and the city is also struggling to provide basic necessities such as food and on-site shower facilities. 

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ALSO READ: NYC Students Learn Remotely As Migrants Move Out of School Gym 

Most of the migrants, including families, have had to survive on little more than packets of oatmeal and Nutri-Grain bars rationed out by volunteers. That is never enough so some of them take to trash diving for food. Attempts to provide the Chicago asylum seekers with adequate shower facilities have also run into obstacles.

Local volunteer Annie Gomberg contacted ShowerUp, a charity that provides mobile showers for homeless people living outside. However, upon arriving at the West Loop landing zone, city officials said they lacked the necessary power and water hookups to get things running. 

Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications rep Mary May told the Tribune that her agency was unable to entertain the volunteer groups’ request because there was no prior communication. Because of this, migrants on the buses have had to go days without running water.

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Amidst it all, city officials continue to request federal help. At a virtual meeting on December 27, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and Denver Mayor Mike Johnston jointly implored the Biden administration to allocate more federal resources to aid their respective cities in coping with the migrant crisis.

POLL—Should the U.S. Government Create a Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants?

New York City has been in crisis for months. It has received tens of thousands of migrants since the spring of 2022. And has had to turn parks and the occasional public school gym into makeshift accommodations to help handle its flood. All these while cutting back on services because it is facing a budget gap of billions of dollars.

“All of our cities have reached a point where we are either close to capacity or nearly out of room,” Johnston said. The situation is not better at the state level as well.

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Earlier this month, Illinois revealed plans to set up an intake center for new arrivals at the bus landing zone in Chicago. According to the state, it will include a half-dozen heated tents, but no specific timeline was provided.

A press release issued by the state clarified that the intake center “is not intended to provide shelter” for migrants. Instead, it is to be a temporary way-stop on their journey to accommodations elsewhere.

ALSO READ: NYC Mayor Eric Adams Sues Bus Companies Transporting Migrants to the City 

Chicago officials have been enduring mounting pressure to provide healthier and cleaner accommodations for the arriving asylum seekers. The pressure has been increasing since the death of Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero, 5, who fell ill while sheltering in a Lower West Side warehouse with thousands of other migrants.

Some migrants have found regular Chicagoans being more sympathetic to their plight than the city itself. A few have been praised for sharing resources like clothes and food items. But what everyone really needs is a permanent solution to the seemingly endless crisis. 

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