Nov. 17, 2023 – The Village of Oak Park has continued to collaborate with a host of community partners this week to further meet the needs of more than 160 asylum-seeking migrants in its care.
As of today, the Village of Oak Park is officially supporting 162 asylum seekers residing in the community, including 57 children under the age of 18. More than half of those individuals (89) are sheltering at The Carleton Hotel of Oak Park, while 55 are currently housed at the West Cook YMCA. Eighteen (18) individuals are also staying at Grace Episcopal Church with the support of volunteers.
Additionally, it is believed that there are approximately 37 migrants staying at two additional Oak Park churches, Calvary Memorial Church and Euclid Methodist Church. Operations at those sites are being run entirely by volunteers and therefore those asylum seekers are not officially counted as being under the Village’s care at this time.
Cook County Health (CCH) continued to provide medical support to migrants living in Oak Park this week. After conducting an initial triage of new arrivals at The Carleton last week, CCH continued to provide necessary follow-up care this week, including transportation to and from its clinic in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood for those in need. As CCH’s initial phase of care wrapped up at The Carleton, the agency began to triage individuals at the YMCA on Thursday.
This week the Emergency Operations Center’s school enrollment team worked closely with officials from Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 to register migrant families in area schools. A total of 28 individual students were registered into District 97 on Thursday and Friday. It’s anticipated that those students and families will attend orientation sessions the week of Nov. 20 before officially beginning instruction on Mon., Nov. 27. Also, Village officials anticipate approximately six (6) high-school-aged students who are part of the group under the Village’s care to register with District 200 Friday.
The Oak Park Township’s Youth and Family Services Team opened a temporary support group for local migrant families on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Families can receive support from bilingual staff, assistance in translating forms and other resources including help with phone calls to needed services. This group for migrant families in Oak Park and will meet at the Oak Park Township (105 S. Oak Park Ave.) from 4-5 p.m. on Wednesdays through mid-December.
The Park District of Oak Park (PDOP) has provided transportation services as part of the Village’s effort to assist migrants this month. After initially supporting the operation to move asylum seekers from the temporary locations to The Carleton and the YMCA, PDOP has also agreed to assist migrants at Grace Episcopal Church in traveling to St. Catherine-St. Lucy Church twice per week to utilize available showers. That service began Thursday.
Village officials are also working in partnership with Greater Chicago Legal Clinic to deliver presentations to asylum seekers on understanding their rights. The clinic has been providing its services pro bono.
This week the Village posted an official timeline detailing events both leading up to the actions taken to assist asylum seekers, and what has occurred since. The timeline begins on Sept. 11, 2023, when two Oak Park residents and members of the Chicago Police Department’s 15th District station response team addressed the Board of Trustees during the non-agenda public comment portion of a Finance Committee meeting. It also details what transpired on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, when community activists began transporting migrants from outside the 15th District in Chicago to the Oak Park police station and eventually Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. It also includes when the Village’s emergency disaster declaration was adopted.
At its upcoming regular meeting on Mon., Nov. 20, the Village Board is expected to consider two items related to assisting migrants: first, a motion to reallocate $1M in unspent ARPA funding as lost revenue in the general fund to be directed to providing aid to asylum seekers through March 19, 2024; then, a resolution declaring an emergency disaster through that same date.
The Village currently has an estimated $550,000 designated to assist asylum seekers, including $400,000 in Supporting Municipalities for Asylum Seeker Services (SMASS) grants and $150,000 in ARPA funding as lost revenue in the Village’s general fund. The current emergency declaration, adopted on Nov. 2, is set to expire on Dec. 4.
Monday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Village Hall (123 Madison St.) inside Council Chambers (room 201). The meeting will be streamed live and archived online for on-demand viewing, as well as cablecast on VOP-TV, which is available to Comcast subscribers on channel 6 and ATT Uverse subscribers on channel 99.
Official information about the efforts to assist asylum-seeking migrants in Oak Park is available at www.oak-park.us/emergencyresponse23.
About Oak Park
The Village of Oak Park, located just nine miles west of downtown Chicago, offers a distinctive urban/suburban lifestyle in a thriving, multi-cultural community. Well-known for progressive values, tree-lined streets and bustling business districts, Oak Park serves as an ideal place to live, work and play. As a longstanding community of choice, the Village benefits from convenient access to local and regional transit, high-quality public schools, and arts and cultural attractions, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio and his acclaimed United Temple, which was recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.