Watch CBS News

Roseland residents express concerns over plan to house migrants in tents nearby

Roseland residents express concerns over plan to house migrants in tents nearby
Roseland residents express concerns over plan to house migrants in tents nearby 03:02

CHICAGO (CBS) – A South Side community is preparing for the potential of new neighbors. The city has proposed turning an empty parking lot into a tent base camp for migrants in Roseland.

CBS 2's Shardaa Gray and Sabrina Franza went to Shelton Heights Church to hear about residents' hopes and concerns. The church was at capacity and it was so full, people were standing outside.

The priority is to relocate people who are sleeping on the floors of Chicago police stations, but Roseland residents said the community is already in a crisis and adding migrants into their neighborhood would make things worse.

Johnson proposed setting up winterized tents for asylum seekers at several locations. One possible location officials mentioned is a parking lot across the street from Shelton Heights Church near 115th and Halsted. Many residents asked if the site would actually be used. The local alderman first said it wasn't "likely" but could not say for sure.

"I'm one who loves to help people, but you're going to impact on something that already needs help," said Lisa Cordova, a Roseland resident. "It doesn't make sense."

The mayor hopes the base camps will solve overcrowding issues with migrants living at Chicago police stations. It's supposed to be a temporary solution to the ongoing crisis with migrant housing.

Roseland pastor, residents share concerns with plan to house migrants in nearby tents 02:43

The large empty lot that was once Jewel-Osco will house up to 1,400 migrants, sources told CBS 2.

It's a plan some are not fond of.

"Think about the person," Cordova said. "You're thinking about fixing the solution so you can say, 'I solved the problem,' which you only created a greater problem."

Pastor Leonardo Gilbert of Shelton Heights Church hosted the community meeting in collaboration with Ald. Ronnie Mosley (21st). Johnson met with Mosley last week to talk about the plan, although to be clear, the mayor doesn't have to ask permission.

"The decision is not necessarily one with the alderman," Mosley told the crowd Wednesday night.

It's one reason why when news broke of the proposed location that the alderman decided to host Wednesday's heated meeting.

"Take that back to the Mayor Brandon Johnson and tell him that your constituents said 'No!'" said one attendee.

CBS 2 reached out to Mosley multiple times for comment but did not hear back until before the meeting to answer questions that residents had on Wednesday.

"Are you telling us that the 115th site is off the table?" one person asked Mosley.

The alderman responded, "Permanently? No."

Gilbert said they might have to increase their security.

"Before the migrants come, I have security because in our community, that's an issue already," said Gilbert. "We have security because we're in a community that has a level of crisis already."

Still, the pastor said he's split about migrants potentially moving into the community.

"We have to stand up and be a blessing to anybody that will be in our community," he said. "And I think that's what we're going to do. The other side of it is that we have a community already in need. So we've been doing this already, just hasn't been with immigrants."

The pastor said if the proposal goes through, he'll ask his congregation to lend a helping hand.

The site was supposed to become a housing and retail development for Chicagoans and $15 million in state funds have already been allocated to build it. The developer was at Wednesday's meeting.

"There's a backlog of housing right now and people in this community needs housing," said Abraham Lacy, president of the Far South Community Development Corporation.

Residents said they shouldn't have to wait for resources like housing and parking space.

"I want to be clear it is not that we do not empathize with their situation has historically marginalized and oppressed people, but we are saying as a community that we will not continue to wait," said another meeting attendee.

The project is expected to break ground in 2024 and its developer said even he doesn't know the truth about what's going on. The mayor asked each alderman to give him two to three sites in each ward to possibly house migrants. Mosley said he's not aware of any sites in the 21st ward that work.

Roseland residents meet to address plan to house migrants in tents nearby 01:54
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.