Here’s how to help migrants arriving in Chicago

The city, advocates and community groups are aiming to help the tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived in Chicago with everything from clothes and toiletries to housing.

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Neislymar Gonzalez’s two children, a daughter 5 years old and a son 4 years old, at the Central District police station in Chicago.

Neislymar Gonzalez’s two children, a daughter 5 years old and a son 4 years old, at the Central District police station in Chicago. Chicago’s response to a growing immigrant crisis has turned police stations into makeshift shelters for asylum-seekers.

Natalie Garcia / For the Sun-Times

Thousands of migrants have been bused or flown to Chicago since August 2022, and when they arrive, they do so with almost nothing.

Citing an urgent need to provide new arrivals — many fleeing violence and political repression — with everything from warm clothing to housing, the city, faith leaders and advocates are calling on regular Chicagoans to pitch in.

Primary needs for new arrivals include housing, warm clothes in the winter, food and more. Below are ways you can help:

Join the rental assistance program as a property owner

Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began busing migrants to Chicago last year, over 30,000 have arrived. Many have found housing on their own or moved onto other cities, but about 14,000 remain in city shelters as they struggle to find places of their own.

For migrants in shelters, the state has a rental assistance program that’s helped thousands but isn’t moving fast enough, partly because willing landlords are hard to find.

Property owners interested in participating can get started by filling out an interest form from Catholic Charities of Chicago, the primary administrator of the program.

Support a local church housing migrants

Migrants have also been finding housing through local churches, but those programs rely largely on donor support.

Find out how to support the city’s official partnership with churches — the Unity Initiative — at their website, or support the Faith Community Initiative, an independent effort, at their website.

Both websites include ways to get involved by becoming a host, donating or volunteering.

Donate furniture

The Chicago Furniture Bank is helping furnish their homes. Request a furniture pickup at their website or donate items to their warehouse at 4801 S. Whipple St. in Brighton Park.

Volunteer with an official city partner

As the weather has become colder, the abject lack of necessities that migrants have when they arrive in Chicago has created a dire situation for some.

New Life Centers, the nonprofit arm of the network of local churches, has taken the lead in welcoming migrants at the city’s designated site for bus arrivals along with city staff.

To donate to that effort, as well as support their other efforts, from moving migrants from shelters into apartments or volunteer packing donations, visit the Nuevos Vecinos section of their website.

Donate items or purchase necessities from Amazon wishlists

That lack of basic necessities can persist even when migrants are in shelters, and several organizations and regular Chicagoans are trying to help out.

Chi Welcome, a citywide network of volunteers that sprang up when migrants were camped out at police stations, created a map of donation sites and what’s each is asking for on their website.

Organizations partnering with the city to provide items include Instituto del Progreso Latino, which has an Amazon wishlist people can purchase items off of, and Cradles to Crayons’, which also has a wishlist.

Cradles to Crayons’ also has a list of locations where items can be dropped off, as does One Warm Coat.

Access to legal aid

A major holdup for migrants looking to settle in Chicago is their ability to legally work here.

In November, White House-sponsored work authorization clinics launched in the city, aiming to speed up the process for migrants.

That has helped, said Erendira Rendón of the Resurrection Project, the organization leading the clinics. But, there’s many ways for regular Chicagoans to contribute.

The White House-sponsored clinics are increasing in frequency to four times per week and the Resurrection Project is seeking volunteer pro-bono attorneys, law students, bilingual volunteers to help with translation and non-Spanish speaking volunteers.

Volunteers can sign up at the welcometoil.org website.

Readers can also help by donating to the Resurrection Project. When donating, click “Immigrant Justice” under the “What would you like your donation to support?” question.

Find volunteer opportunities on local Facebook groups

When the city and partner organizations haven’t been able to move fast enough, regular Chicagoans have often picked up the slack.

A good place to start supporting those efforts is by visiting the online communities where people are organizing.

These include, the Facebook page for Chi Welcome; Neighbors Helping Our New Neighbors, a South Side specific group; and Refugee Community Connection, which is aimed at helping the refugee community more broadly.

More coverage of migrants in Chicago

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