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Woodlawn residents take city officials to task for 'disruptions' at migrant shelter

Neighbors in Woodlawn frustrated with migrant shelter 'disruptions'
Neighbors in Woodlawn frustrated with migrant shelter 'disruptions' 02:16

CHICAGO (CBS) – Confrontations, anger, and frustration were on display Monday evening as neighbors in Woodlawn talked about what they call big problems at a nearby migrant center.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, the meeting at the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave., focused on the migrant shelter in the old Wadsworth Elementary School – a few blocks away at 6420 S. University Ave.

"I would ask you all to go out there – go out there at night, in the middle of the night – and see what goes on," one woman said at the meeting.

What's going on - according to community members - is loitering, late-night partying, littering, prostitution, and at least one fight between migrants and residents.

"It got a little heated," said Chicago Deputy Police Chief Stephen Chung. "Objects got thrown."

But many of the residents said they no longer have any tolerance for the disruptive behavior by those seeking asylum here. The residents said it is making them feel unsafe.

"They disrespect us, they rob us, they harass us," another woman said.

The residents said their patience is wearing thin.

"Let me say this – they've got one more time to deal with it, because otherwise, next time they deal with it, they're going to deal with it from the streets. We're going to take over," a man said. "Nobody is going to be able to stop us from what we're going to do to them."

Much of residents' anger was directed at city officials in attendance – including Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), Chicago Deputy Police Chief Stephen Chung, and Department of Family & Support Services Commissioner Brandie Knazze.

At one point, police had to intervene, breaking up a quarrel during public comments.

"It absolutely is a problem," Taylor said at the meeting.

Taylor said she has now seen some of those problems firsthand.

"The people who are keeping up the trouble are the people who are kicked out of the damn shelter," she said.

All the city officials who attended the meeting promised they are working on solutions to make the area around the shelter better for the neighborhood – and consequences for those who are found to be breaking the rules or the law.

"We need to get a handle on it now," Taylor said, "and because the city never had a real plan, it's been an opportunity. [Mayor Brandon Johnson] hasn't been in office 90 days yet, so they're working as hard as they can and as much as they can to put a plan together for everybody."

But residents said they want to see something happen, and something change, immediately.

Taylor said the initial plan was to house migrants at the old Wadsworth School until October 2024. She said she is pushing to make sure the building is turned back over to the community at that time.

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