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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

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Goodbye Mr. Phillips
Goodbye Mr. Phillips
May 8, 2024
In The Mix: 2024
In The Mix: 2024
Just the Jakes
Just the Jakes
Izabella Paracuelles and Marin Ubersox May 8, 2024
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STOP! In the name of safety
Izabella Paracuelles, Feature Editor • March 15, 2024

Amid migrant crisis, Evanston City Council looks toward shelter grant money

1020+Church+Street%2C+the+proposed+location+for+the+shelter.+To+apply+for+the+grant%2C+the+City+needs+to+have+a+location+for+the+migrant+shelter+in+mind.
1020 Church Street, the proposed location for the shelter. To apply for the grant, the City needs to have a location for the migrant shelter in mind.

Since late 2022, more than 36,000 migrants have come into Chicago, arriving in buses primarily from Texas. The rush to find adequate accommodation for the large influx of new asylum seekers has created a rollover stress on Chicago’s suburbs, including Evanston. 

To address the growing crisis, the main focus of discussion at the April 8 City Council meeting was finding proper accommodations for migrants, specifically whether the City should apply for a Cook County grant, due April 19, to cover the projected $2 million annual operating cost of a shelter. No conclusive decision was made, however the application can be submitted by the City without Council approval.

The property up for consideration was a two-story building for rent located at 1020 Church Street in downtown Evanston. The property used to be an office building, and would need a retrofit, but was determined to be the most suitable proposed location by Alison Leipsiger, the City’s Policy Coordinator. The location, once retrofitted, would accommodate up to 65 migrants, and would rent for around $120,000 a month.

All councilmembers voiced support for migrant accommodations, but some were hesitant about the Church Street location, feeling that its selection was too rushed.

“I would love to see something closer to Chicago so that we can more effectively partner with [migrant accommodation efforts there],” said Fifth Ward Alderperson Bobby Burns.

Other councilmembers voiced similar concerns, and desired a greater amount of community input, fearing that the potential decision’s ramifications may be long lasting.

“When we have a plan and we can do our very best at that plan, that involves a bit of community input. I think we have some very creative minds in our community who can help,” said Second Ward Alderperson Krissie Harris. “It’s a no but working towards a yes.”

Although expressed concerns centered around the somewhat rushed decision making process, the time frame was not determined arbitrarily. In meetings with Cook County staff, Leipsinger was reminded of the importance of at least demonstrating a desire to apply for the grant by the April 19 deadline. For the City to apply for the full grant money, a location would have to be chosen by then.

“I do think that the emergency that is presenting itself to us right now doesn’t really give us the luxury to wait until the day that the perfect opportunity presents itself,” said Biss.

Community members who spoke during public comment also expressed a desire for a shelter in Evanston. One speaker in particular, Debra Michaud, expressed the immediate importance of the migrant crisis.

“I’ve been working for the past couple years with refugees and for the past year with our new neighbors who are asylum seekers, and in this work I’ve discovered a discrepancy between refugees and asylum seekers,” she said, contrasting her time spent working with Ukrainian refugees in and out of Ukraine and her local work with migrants coming from Texas. “Our new migrants coming from the Southern border have nothing, they’re getting no resettlement services and they don’t have the ability to work.”

Michaud is the founder of Refugee Support Chicago, a new nonprofit, and committed herself to help with the migrant crisis in Evanston in any way possible.

“[It’s] time for the suburbs to step up. The City of Evanston has a distinguished history in civil rights and supporting social justice, one it should be very proud of, and this is an opportunity to stick by this legacy and build upon it with our current humanitarian crisis,” Michaud said.

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About the Contributor
Ethan Ravi
Ethan Ravi, News Editor
Hi! My name is Ethan Ravi (he/him). I’m a junior, and this year I’m the News Editor, as well as the Resident Food Critic. This is my third year on staff, previously I was the Assistant News Editor (sophomore year), and a staff writer (freshman year). I love writing for the Evanstonian because I get to work with our wonderful staff to tell important Evanston stories. Outside of the paper, I play tennis for the ETHS team, work at a local tennis shop, compete on the Math Team and participate in peer tutoring. In my free time, I enjoy reading, seeing friends and family, playing the piano and drinking coffee.
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