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Chicago's new shelter stay limit for migrants worries volunteers

Chicago's new shelter stay limit for migrants worries volunteers
Chicago's new shelter stay limit for migrants worries volunteers 02:40

CHICAGO (CBS) – Migrants in Chicago who move into city-run shelters have 60 days to leave.

It's part of a new policy the city announced on Friday to clear shelter space and speed up connecting migrants to permanent housing.

Many volunteers who have been helping migrants for months are worried, and one of them shared her concerns with CBS 2's Noel Brennan.

Volunteers on the frontlines are worried about the more than 2,000 migrants who were waiting at police stations and airports. They said the city's new shelter stay policy forcing new arrivals to leave after 60 days only sets up families for failure.

"The numbers have swelled tremendously over the last few months," said Lydia Wong.

For six months and counting, Wong has helped new neighbors in need.

"Most of the migrants from Venezuela, although other countries as well, who the city has decided the plan is to stay here until they're able to find shelter placement," Wong said.

She's one of the leaders of a team caring for migrants at the 10th District Chicago police station.

"Now we've at times hit more than 100 or 150," she said.

Her latest worry is Chicago's new shelter stay policy. She said volunteers across the city share her concern.

"What we're seeing is that anyone who is entering housing from, I believe it's actually yesterday forward, will not receive any housing assistance in shelters, and they will be immediately given a 60-day notice," Wong said.

The city said the policy aims to resettle people quickly, but Wong fears asylum seekers will be left in the cold.

"60 days from now, we are in some of the coldest time of the year, and so to jeopardize physical shelter in the coldest time of the year is hazardous," Wong said.

Mayor Brandon Johnson's administration said it's working on a strategy to clear police stations before the winter.

"Nobody came here to be in a congregate shelter or sleeping on a floor in a police station," said Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Johnson's first deputy chief of staff.

"We have people who have been here over a month," said Wong.

Volunteers want to help new neighbors find a permanent home.

Wong added, "Creating better stability for all people is better for Chicago."

The city said migrants may be eligible to stay in shelters longer than 60 days under extenuating circumstances like a medical crisis or severe cold weather.

Volunteers also worry the 60-day shelter policy won't give migrants enough time to apply for and receive work permits. Even with help from the federal government to expedite the process, work permits could take 90 days or more.

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