Chicago struggles to house migrants, and conditions are grim, grantee finds

Mauricio Peña/Borderless Magazine Two adjoining buildings in an industrial section of Pilsen make up Chicago’s largest migrant shelter. More than a dozen migrants living there say the shelter is dangerous and unsanitary.

In an investigation for Borderless Magazine about conditions for migrants in Chicago, more than a dozen people told reporter Nissa Rhee that they endured cramped living quarters, mistreatment by shelter workers, freezing temperatures and dirty bathrooms. With support from the Fund, Rhee also described outbreaks of various illnesses, including chickenpox, the flu and upper-respiratory infections, spreading without sufficient medical attention. The experiences of migrants inside the shelter in the Pilsen neighborhood offer a window into Chicago’s network of emergency shelters hurriedly opened to house migrants sent to the city since August 2022. Rhee noted that despite public claims from Illinois’ governor and Chicago’s mayor, it’s not clear what oversight or inspections are happening across the city’s 20 temporary shelters.