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Numerous migrant families stuck camping out at police stations; volunteers are in 'crisis'

Chicago agencies helping migrants say they're in crisis mode
Chicago agencies helping migrants say they're in crisis mode 02:47

CHICAGO (CBS) -- "We are in crisis" – that's the word from volunteer organizations who say they are handling the influx of migrants to Chicago with little help from the city.

Families are still spending days with no resources at police stations – and nine months after the first refugees arrived on buses from Texas, they say there is still no plan in place.

As CBS 2's Marissa Perlman reported Thursday night, between 100 and 200 migrants are coming in now from Central and South America every week – only to be dropped off at Chicago Police district stations.

Every morning, volunteers get calls from police districts – asking them for help and not the city.

Volunteers shared photos just this week of families with little kids eating on the floor of the Lincoln (20th) District station, 5400 N. Lincoln Ave., using a towel and a jacket to sleep.

Elio Rivas and his family spent their first day in Chicago a jog to the north and east at the Rogers Park (20th) District station, 6464 N. Clark St.

"We didn't have anything," Rivas said through an interpreter. "We had a really bad experience. We stayed three days. We were very scared."

Rivas and his family had no water or food while staying at the police station. It had been two weeks since they had left Venezuela.

Rivas' daughter, Daikerlys, was finally smiling Thursday as the family finally got space in a shelter.

With a pen and notepad, Mary Schaaf and Luisette Kraal – volunteers with Nuevos Vecinos and the Refugee Community Connection – track migrant families at local police headquarters. The families stay on average between three and 10 days.

Schaaf said there are also now seven people – four adults and three children - at the Central (1st) District station, 1718 S. State St.

"All we've been hoping for is a coordinated effort - and here is proof that it's not happening," said Schaaf, "and these families are coming in droves."

Schaaf said volunteer resources are running out. Since August, from a Rogers Park church, they have clothed and fed 2,000 migrants - based on donations alone – and no help from city officials.

They drop off food at police districts across the city day and night. Schaaf said the police are trying to work with the volunteers, but they too are overwhelmed.

"It takes a toll on them," said Schaaf. "Two of them looked at me today when I walked in, and they said to me, 'This is inhumane.'"

Volunteers have reached out to the city and respective aldermen with no response, for months.

Now, more than 6,000 families are in Chicago seeking asylum.

"They came to Chicago thinking it was a welcoming city, and yet we don't have a coordinated effort in the city to take care of them," said Schaaf. "Where are the aldermen in this city. Why isn't this a topic that's being managed in our City Council?"

This was also a question we asked six Chicago aldermen who right now have refugees at Chicago Police district stations in their wards. We either didn't hear back, or others told us they were not aware of the situation.

We'll keep pressing them for answers. 

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