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Migrants move out of migrant shelter at Broadway Armory Park

Migrants carry their suitcases out of a shelter in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. Some suburbs, like Ford Heights and Oak Park, are using funding from the county to open shelters for migrants.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Migrants move out of migrant shelter at Broadway Armory Park

Migrants carry their suitcases out of a shelter in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. Some suburbs, like Ford Heights and Oak Park, are using funding from the county to open shelters for migrants.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Cook County set aside $20 million for suburbs to help migrants. Only a few applied for the money.

Only Oak Park and Ford Heights applied for the fund. While some suburbs are still in talks with the county, the official deadline has passed.

Migrants carry their suitcases out of a shelter in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. Some suburbs, like Ford Heights and Oak Park, are using funding from the county to open shelters for migrants.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

   

Cook County set aside $20 million for suburbs to support services for migrants, but most of them have passed up the money.

Out of about 100 Chicago suburbs, just four – Oak Park, Ford Heights, Forest Park and University Park – have officially applied to use the funds. The deadline closed on Friday after opening in the fall.

WBEZ reporter Kristen Schorsch spoke with suburban leaders to find out why they took advantage of the money – or avoided applying.

“There are some suburbs that say that they just do not have the bandwidth,” Schorsch said. “There's also some racist attitudes towards migrants. But also, some are worried that people who have lived in their communities for a very long time are not getting the same resources.”

Suburbs could use the funding for a range of services, including shelters, rental assistance, food services and helping migrants enroll in school or public benefits.

The fund also has a provision that allows suburbs to pass the money along to nonprofit organizations.

Julie Solis works for Respond Now, a nonprofit in the south suburbs, as a homeless prevention program manager. If leaders are worried about the logistics or staffing, she said that nonprofits like Respond Now are willing to help.

Though applications have closed, an official from Cook County’s Department of Emergency Management told WBEZ that the county will continue to have conversations with suburbs that are already in talks with them about applying. That includes north suburbs Wilmette and Evanston.

Alison Leipsiger, policy coordinator for the City of Evanston, said that Evanston is looking into setting up a shelter. However, debate around the cost and location is slowing the process.

Leipsiger said that she has searched for a wide range of places. No location is perfect – the majority need renovations to be considered safe. But she said that suburbs have a responsibility to step up and support migrants.

“This crisis has been handed to us and there's not much we can do about it,” Leipsiger said. “We have to do everything we can to ensure that we're helping as much as possible, even with limited resources.”

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