Oct. 23, 2023 – “The Village of Oak Park staff have been diligently monitoring the influx of individuals seeking asylum in the greater Chicagoland area over the past several months.
To that end, the Village of Oak Park applied for the Supporting Municipalities for Asylum Seeker Services (SMASS) grant in September in the amount of $7.5 million to serve as a passthrough to organizations such as Housing Forward, Catholic Charities, Beyond Hunger, PCC Wellness, Greater Chicago Legal Clinic, West Cook YMCA, and Thrive Counseling Center as those organizations have established methods and infrastructure to support asylum seeker’s access to transitional housing, food, wraparound services, legal assistance and health and wellness. The Village received notice on Oct. 6, 2023 that Oak Park received $150,000 to assist in preparation and planning for future opportunities to support asylum seekers.
On Oct. 19, and again on Oct. 23, Village staff participated on a call with the program consultants for the SMASS grant from BRicK Partners, LLC, to discuss the award and each group’s vision for how the monies should be utilized. Oak Park officials also inquired directly to the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus regarding plans for the program’s unallocated funding. Conversations between all parties, including between the Village and the partner agencies, remain ongoing at this time.
The Village of Oak Park is not currently aware of any asylum seekers who are being housed on public property (i.e. police station, Village Hall, etc.) or by partner organizations within the village limits. Village staff is aware that asylum seekers who are based at police stations within Chicago, specifically the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) 15th and 25th Districts, are regularly coming into Oak Park where they are able to receive access to showers, laundry, respite, and childcare services during the day at places like St. Catherine-St. Lucy Church. Individuals utilizing those services rotate throughout the week, and approximately 200 individuals are using those services on a weekly basis.
The Oak Park Public Health Department is hosting vaccine clinics this week for those who do not have health insurance or who have health plans that do not cover the cost of vaccines. A clinic planned for Thursday, Oct. 26 will include both COVID-19 and childhood vaccines required to attend school. Officials see this as ideal for migrant families or families who are seeking asylum given that Spanish-language interpreters will be on site to assist in the process. The Oak Park Public Health Department is also working with local schools from District 97 and District 200 to ensure families that could benefit from this opportunity are aware of the clinic.
Dr. Danielle Walker, Village of Oak Park Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, recently visited the CPD’s 15th District headquarters in the Austin neighborhood to meet with local volunteers who are actively assisting asylum seekers. During this meeting, volunteers emphasized the need for immediate housing, legal assistance, drinking water, laundry support, and food delivery as some of the top pressing needs for migrants. The visit underscored the Village’s urgency and showed that Oak Park staff is committed to thinking through positive solutions.
Village of Oak Park officials continue to seek ways to best support asylum seekers through collaboration in Oak Park and determine the feasibility of immediate, short-term and long-term solutions.”