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Community organizations step in to ease housing crisis faced by migrants in Chicago

Community groups step in as migrants face housing crisis in Chicago
Community groups step in as migrants face housing crisis in Chicago 02:54

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A total of 5,100 asylum-seeking migrants have arrived in Chicago since the end of August – and we are now beginning to see the strain the influx is having on the city.

CBS 2's Marissa Perlman spoke Tuesday with some of the migrants about their journey, and the organizations that are now scrambling to help.

Perlman spoke with some of the first migrants who arrived from Texas in September. They had been staying at a shelter for months.

But as more families arrived, the shelters got full. Now, community organizations and local leaders say they are being forced to take families in.

Kevin Gonzalez and Darwen Fareas showed us around their temporary home in the basement of the 25th Ward office of Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez. They are two of five migrants staying in that basement.

Through an interpreter, Gonzalez and Fareas said they are happy to have a warm place to sleep. They met in September, when they first got off a bus from Texas after fleeing their home in Venezuela.

"The decision why I came from Venezuela had a lot to do with a lot of the injustices that's happening over there," Gonzalez said through the interpreter.

But on Christmas Eve, Gonzalez and Fareas were kicked out of a shelter, they say for playing a card game. Management thought they were gambling.

For days, they stayed at a nearby Chicago Transit Authority station. Other shelters were full.

"It was just really strong cold, and we were really hungry," Fareas said through the interpreter.

More than 5,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago since Aug. 31 – either from Colorado or Texas. The city says last week, more than 330 came from Colorado – and more than 150 are now in shelters.

Cameras also recorded migrants being dropped off at the Central (1st) District police station, 1718 S. State St., over the weekend. They stayed at the police station for days.

This came as the Mayor's office penned an open letter to Colorado admitting to struggling with the influx of people coming to the city.

"Now we're in a crisis situation where shelters are full, and now they're just like the streets with nowhere to go," said Delilah Martinez of The Mural Movement.

Since October, Martinez has helped the migrant families. She is now teaming up with the West Loop Community Organization.

She has turned her Pilsen art gallery into a donation center – and mattresses and clothes have piled in.

Martinez said community organizations are being forced to step in to help the city.

"They're hungry. They need necessities," Martinez said. "All they're coming here to do is work."

"I think it's really important for people to understand this takes a village," said Julie Darling of the West Loop Community Organization.

Martinez is housing 11 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia in the apartment above her gallery. They arrived over the weekend and stayed at a police station for a bit.

Community organizations that are now hoping to store supplies permanently for future migrant families that continue to come to Chicago.

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