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State plans to open migrant shelter in vacant Kmart building in West Lawn

By WBBM Staff

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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — Asylum seekers staying in Illinois could soon get temporary housing at a building in West Lawn.

Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) said the state plans to turn a shuttered Kmart store at 71st and Pulaski into a migrant shelter.

Tabares, whose ward includes the Kmart site, has urged state officials to talk to the local community before proceeding any further.

“I have major concerns for the safety of the local community and the people who will be housed at this location,” Tabares said in a statement. “We need a plan that ensures the safety of the community and its residents.”

Concerns about a shelter at the old Kmart in West Lawn come less than two weeks after the city of Chicago opened a migrant shelter at the old Wadsworth Elementary School in Woodlawn, despite opposition from neighbors.

About 100 migrants moved into the Woodlawn shelter on Feb. 2, and city officials expect a total of 250 migrants to stay there for at least two years.

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), who’s been critical of the city’s handling of the building, has said it doesn’t make sense to house the migrants in Woodlawn, and has said other parts of her ward would be a better choice.

“They made a mistake,” Taylor said in November. “They didn’t count on me and my community saying it didn’t make sense for it to go there.”

Taylor has said, had she been told sooner about the plans, she would’ve suggested parts of her ward that are home to Latinx organizations and churches.

But by being in Woodlawn…

“They would be in a Black part of the ward where nobody speaks Spanish. Nobody could help them,” Taylor said in October.

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