Church leaders call for faithful across city to shelter, support migrants living in police stations

City church leaders say they’ve developed a model for helping migrants and urged people to sign up online to take part in the mission.

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Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Rabbi Seth Limmer (right), founder of Open Judaism, and other faith leaders sit behind a sign that reads, “Refugees and immigrants welcome here. No Muslim ban. No border wall,” during a press conference at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, where faith leaders and alderpersons called on other leaders to house asylum seekers who are currently living in police stations, Friday, June 2, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Faith leaders and City Council members Friday called on other leaders to house migrants who are living in police stations.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A group of religious leaders and alderpersons gathered Friday to call on faith communities from churches, synagogues and mosques across the city to house and support migrants who’ve been living in the city’s police stations.

The Rev. Beth Brown of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church asked the faithful to form groups of two or three and commit for one year to housing and supporting a family or group currently living in police district stations.

“The financial commitment is somewhere between $600 and $900 a month if you can house them in your church or synagogue or mosque or temple,” Brown said from her pulpit. “We can do this Chicago. Let’s house the more than 700 people living in police stations by the end of June.”

Brown said the Chicago Religious Leadership Network has developed a model for helping migrants and asylum-seekers to be safely housed and supported while going through the process of getting work authorization, finding a job and saving money for an apartment.

Rev. Beth Brown, pastor of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church and interim commissioner on the community commission for public safety and accountability, speaks during a press conference at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, where faith leaders and alderpersons called on other leaders to house asylum seekers who are currently living in police stations, Friday, June 2, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Rev. Beth Brown is pastor of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church and interim commissioner on the community commission for public safety and accountability.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Brown said help with logistics and case management would be provided, and she urged anyone interested in participating to go to her church’s website at lppchurch.org and fill out and submit a request form.

At least one person from each volunteer group will be required to attend a two-hour training, she said.

“Then we will work on the process of matching you with a family in your police district,” she said.

Brown also encouraged faith communities outside the city to participate, as well as individuals or families not tied to faith communities.

“We are to treat others as we want to be treated, and we are to welcome strangers and provide hospitality,” she said.

Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd) and Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd) attended the gathering Friday to lend support.

The city is making efforts to help with housing, including space that opened Thursday for 400 migrants at Wilbur Wright College’s gymnasium, but it will take a greater effort, Hadden said.

“We need faith leaders to be an active part of the solution,” she said. “Please answer the call, check out the website, come to the orientation.”

Since August, Chicago has taken in nearly 10,000 migrants.

Zainab, an asylum seeker, tears up as she hears a poem about migration during a press conference at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, where faith leaders and alderpersons called on other leaders to house asylum seekers who are currently living in police stations, Friday, June 2, 2023. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Zainab, an asylum-seeker, tears up as she hears a poem about migration Friday during a news conference at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Rev. Tom Terrell, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church of Albany Park, said his congregation recently took in five families who had been living at a neighborhood police station.

“They may be with us for three months, six months, a year; it doesn’t matter. They are welcomed as long as they need a home,” Terrell said. “I would remind faith leaders to know this: If you have a building, you have a calling. ... Let’s use our buildings.”

Terrell noted that regular church business carries on.

“It provides challenges, but nothing has been dropped. It’s not always easy, but it is the right thing to do,” he said.

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