Marie Jochum

Helping to alleviate migrant crisis

Thursday, December 14, 2023

While you may be seeing stories in the news media about asylum seekers in Chicago needing shelter for the winter, you may not be aware that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago has assumed a critical role in the response to this housing crisis.

Jesus calls us to serve anyone in need, regardless of their faith, gender, race, ethnicity and — particularly now — citizenship. When buses of migrants began arriving from Texas late last summer, our teams were there to greet them and connect them with on-the-ground resources.

We also provided reunification support for arrivals who did not want to stay in Chicago, connecting them to friends and relatives in other parts of the country. To date, we have helped over 2,000 people reunite with their loved ones.

But for those who decided to stay in Chicago, the city was grappling with where they would live. So, in late 2022, our government partners approached us to help with case management of families to help them transition out of an increasingly overstretched shelter system.

Resettlement refers to the process of helping displaced people from other countries find a safe place to live and assistance meeting their basic needs. For many of the migrants who are coming to the U.S. are fleeing extreme poverty and unsafe conditions.

We studied the situation and decided that, drawing on our deep experience in homelessness prevention and refugee resettlement, we were prepared to step up to address what was quickly turning into a crisis.

We deployed a small team to undertake this work, which we have expanded as our experience, and the need, has grown. With funding from the state of Illinois, we now have 60 people who have joined us just for this response. Most are bilingual and are themselves either immigrants to Chicago or have close family or friends who are. The team is persistent, focused and committed.

We are proud to report that at the time of publication, we have connected approximately 7,400 individuals (representing roughly 2,900 households) to leased housing in Chicago and nearby suburbs. We are currently on pace to sign 500 leases a month.

The availability of apartments has been the biggest, and an ongoing, surprise for our team. Landlords, many of whom are increasingly reaching out to us, are some of the unsung heroes of this crisis. They are opening their units to migrants.

Our success continues to depend on a robust network of community partners who help with move-in support, furniture and household items, and with the ongoing partnership and collaboration of our city and state leaders and agencies, who provide critical emergency funding.

It is important to note that this work has not impacted our longstanding homelessness prevention programs for neighbors in need who have encountered setbacks. We continue to serve thousands of residents in Cook and Lake counties daily, touching the lives of over 375,000 people each year. Some we serve only once, others we see weekly.

Our teams are, and will remain, focused on addressing the many critical needs of the communities, families and individuals we are called to serve and accompany. That is our mission — to be there for people in need, the vulnerable, the hungry, the lonely.

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  • catholic charities
  • migrants