City’s largest migrant shelter, operating steps from the Mag Mile, should be closed, alderman says

CHICAGO — A downtown Chicago alderman is calling for the city to permanently close a major migrant shelter that has been operating at the Inn of Chicago, just steps from the Magnificent Mile.

“This site is not suitable for its current use as a migrant shelter,” Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said in a written statement Monday evening. “Its location in the Central Business District is inappropriate. It is one block away from the vital economic engine that is Michigan Avenue and within feet of multiple downtown hotels that we need to keep filled with visitors to our city.”

Housing 1,530 migrants as of September 22, the Inn of Chicago site at 162 East Ohio is the single largest migrant shelter in the city, according to an online dashboard maintained by Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th). According to Hopkins, former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration opened the Inn of Chicago shelter “with no aldermanic input.”

Residents have long complained about the shelter’s impact on the neighborhood, and Hopkins has had enough.

While acknowledging the “substantial challenge” that busloads of incoming migrants present for the city, Hopkins said the Inn of Chicago operation should be closed when the city’s contract with the operator expires on December 31.

“I have heard from hundreds of residents regarding significant quality of life concerns stemming from activity at that location, and I have witnessed many of them myself,” Hopkins explained. “These issues include, but are not limited to, narcotics sales, prostitution, consumption of alcohol on the public way, theft from local businesses, unlicensed street vendors, aggressive panhandling, and loitering on the public way to the point of blocking passage of pedestrians.”

The alderman also pointed to “reports of poor conditions in the building itself.”

Hopkins said the city government is limited in its ability to handle the migrant inflow alone, citing the migrants’ inability to work as an example of problems that are beyond the city’s control.

“In short, we need considerable assistance from the federal government,” the alderman wrote.

“I am calling for the permanent closure of the Inn of Chicago migrant shelter upon the expiration of its current contract, which is December 31, 2023,” Hopkins concluded. “While I do not have executive authority on this matter, and the facility [is] just outside my ward, I am hopeful that those with the decision-making power will heed the calls of myself and local residents and not renew the contract.”

Here is the full text of Hopkins’ statement:

Dear Neighbors,

As you are undoubtedly aware, our city is facing a substantial challenge as busloads of migrants continue to arrive from our country’s southern border. In our neighborhood specifically, the challenges are on full display near the shelter established by former Mayor Lightfoot’s Administration (with no aldermanic input) at the former Inn of Chicago.

I have heard from hundreds of residents regarding significant quality of life concerns stemming from activity at that location, and I have witnessed many of them myself. These issues include, but are not limited to, narcotics sales, prostitution, consumption of alcohol on the public way, theft from local businesses, unlicensed street vendors, aggressive panhandling, and loitering on the public way to the point of blocking passage of pedestrians. Additionally, there have been reports of poor conditions in the building itself.

In July, I provided a summary of the actions my office has taken attempting to mitigate these serious issues. I also laid out the limitations that we, as a city government, have in solving these issues, given the large number of people present who are not allowed to work and have nowhere else to go. I encourage you to review that summary here. In short, we need considerable assistance from the federal government. Unfortunately, since the time that I provided the summary, the situation has not improved.

This site is not suitable for its current use as a migrant shelter. Its location in the Central Business District is inappropriate. It is one block away from the vital economic engine that is Michigan Avenue and within feet of multiple downtown hotels that we need to keep filled with visitors to our city. Economic activity in the Central Business District is a crucial revenue generator for our city and must be protected whenever possible.

For all the above reasons, I am calling for the permanent closure of the Inn of Chicago migrant shelter upon the expiration of its current contract, which is December 31, 2023. While I do not have executive authority on this matter, and the facility just outside my ward, I am hopeful that those with the decision-making power will heed the calls of myself and local residents and not renew the contract.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,
Alderman Brian Hopkins
2nd Ward

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Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com