Current News



Chicago to have one unified system for homeless and migrants, city and state officials say

Nell Salzman, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO — The city and state are in the planning stages to combine Chicago’s legacy homeless shelter system with its system for migrants, according to government officials, and turn it into a unified shelter structure, an idea advocates for the homeless have long championed.

The “One System Initiative” will shift a “permanent shelter management to the non-profit workforce,” Illinois Department of Human Services spokesperson Daisy Contreras said in a statement. Currently, the city contracts with Favorite Healthcare Staffing, whose sizable overtime has contributed to tens of millions of dollars in city payments to the firm staffing the city’s migrant shelters.

The state’s office to prevent and end homelessness will lead the initiative with more than 25 community-based agencies participating, Contreras said. Planning sessions are set to begin at the end of April and go through the spring.

Beatriz Ponce de Leon, Chicago’s deputy mayor of immigrant, migrant and refugee rights, said officials ultimately hope to fully transition to a unified shelter system — and look beyond shelter to affordable housing.The goal, she said, is “to serve people regardless of if they’ve been here for five days or five years or their whole life.”Homeless advocates say combining the shelter systems will take time and coordination, but will be beneficial.

The two shelter systems — catering toward the homeless and migrant populations in Chicago respectively — currently compete for limited affordable housing resources, said Nicole Bahena, vice president of community partnerships for All Chicago, in a written statement to the Tribune. “Consolidating will help reduce competition and reduce wasted time and effort,” Bahena said.

The city opened its first shelters catering to migrants in early September 2022 after Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott began sending migrants to Chicago and other sanctuary cities on buses and planes, in part to draw attention to strained resources in border cities. But Chicago’s open-armed approach to welcoming migrants quickly crashed into the reality of limited resources and past disinvestment in city neighborhoods.


The city and state are now housing 8,724 migrants in 17 buildings, according to city data released Sunday. Nearly 40,000 migrants have passed through Chicago since Abbott’s busing began, and more arrive each week.

Bahena said the separate system that was set up for migrants is different from the one typically used in the homeless sector. Providers helping asylum-seekers may be new to housing and homelessness. Combining these program models, she said, may pose challenges.

“This will require new staff positions including system coordinators, translators and other staff to support a coordinated system that must be adaptable as we learn,” she said in the statement.

Ponce de Leon said the plan is still in its infancy, but they hope to have a more public report at the end of the summer. She said the state’s chief homelessness officer and the city’s new homelessness officer are involved in the discussions.


swipe to next page

©2024 Chicago Tribune. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus