Jan 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Hundreds of migrants sleeping on buses as winter storms hit Chicago


Warming buses park next to portable toilets near the city's "landing zone" for new arrivals. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

More than 550 migrants, including about 100 children, are sleeping in CTA warming buses in the South Loop, near the city's "landing zone" for new arrivals, according to city data.

Why it matters: The "landing zone" isn't designed to shelter migrants, and some told the Sun-Times that the buses are overcrowded and lack sufficient food and supplies as winter storms hit the region.

Catch up quick: The city started temporarily housing some migrants in buses at the site around New Year's Eve, weeks after the city moved new arrivals out of police stations and abandoned plans for tented encampments.

Meanwhile, Illinois is building a six-tent migrant processing center at the South Loop "landing zone," which is expected to open this month.

  • The plans don't include any housing.

By the numbers: As of Tuesday, 825 people were still awaiting shelter placement while sleeping in buses (554), in police stations (16) and at O'Hare (255).

Between the lines: Bus arrivals are harder than ever to track, because many migrants are being dropped off in municipalities outside Chicago with little or no notice.

  • This has driven more than a dozen towns to pass rules — similar to Chicago's — requiring bus operators to coordinate arrivals with them or face fines. This week, Summit and Calumet Park are scheduled to hold meetings to pass more such rules.

What we're watching: Several residents are set to reach their 60-day stay limit at shelters next week, when temperatures are expected to fall below zero.

  • The rules do allow exceptions to the stay limits during times of extreme weather.
  • City officials say they will release information this week about how they plan to handle the deadlines.
Several buses parked around the "landing zone" near Polk and Des Plaines. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios
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