‘I am absolutely livid’: Kenwood residents decry plan to turn hotel into migrant shelter

The Lake Shore Hotel, where some migrants were housed this spring, would begin taking up to 300 asylum-seekers.

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Kenwood resident Doris Lewis blasts officials for their plans to house 300 migrants at the Lake Shore Hotel in Kenwood while Black neighborhoods have had to deal with disinvestment for decades. “I am absolutely livid, livid. You all are so hypocritical.”

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Kenwood residents passionately voiced their concerns over the city’s plan to turn the Lake Shore Hotel in the South Side neighborhood into a shelter for asylum-seekers, during an often contentious community meeting Wednesday.

Fifth Ward Ald. Desmon Yancy frequently urged the standing-room-only crowd at the Promontory in Hyde Park to let others talk and to refrain from shouting.

Ald. Desmon Yancy The Promontory Hyde Park

Fifth Ward Ald. Desmon Yancy addresses community members Wednesday during an emergency meeting at the Promontory in Hyde Park.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

“I know we all got some real tough feelings about what’s going on, but I’m just asking everybody to have a respectful conversation because it’s going to be really hard for us to get information,” Yancy told the attendees as some yelled out questions and comments as the meeting got underway.

Other officials at the meeting included 40th Ward Ald. Andre Vasquez, Jesus Del Toro of the mayor’s office, Chicago Police Deputy Chief Steve Chung and Natalia Santillan from the Department of Family and Support Services.

The city plans to house up to 300 people at the Kenwood hotel at 4900B S. Lake Shore Drive as soon as Friday, Yancy said. It previously housed just over 100 migrants in the spring, which is why it’s being considered again as a temporary shelter.

The plan is in response to the ballooning number of migrants sleeping at various locations across the city. Around 1,500 people are sleeping at police stations and airports, waiting for shelter space to open.

Since August 2022, more than 13,500 migrants have arrived in Chicago. About 6,500 are spread among 16 shelters.

The number of arrivals is only expected to grow as buses carrying migrants from Texas continue to reach Chicago. The city also plans to turn a former Marine Corps facility in North Park into a shelter.

Residents at the meeting said they were concerned about trash piling up around the hotel, potential diseases that migrants might bring with them and proper vetting of those staying at the hotel. Others also wondered whether children in the shelter would receive proper educational services.

community meeting Hyde Park

Wednesday’s community meeting in Hyde Park was contentious as residents expressed concerns about health and safety regarding migrants being sent to their neighborhood.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Officials were also criticized for not notifying residents about the plan. Yancy told them that he called the meeting as soon as he found out about it last week.

Many expressed their displeasure at the city spending more resources for new arrivals when long-term residents, particularly in Black neighborhoods, have had to deal with disinvestment for decades.

Kenwood resident Doris Lewis, saying she lives across the street from the hotel, blasted Yancy and other city officials at the meeting for their plans.

“I am absolutely livid, livid. You all are so hypocritical. I live right across the street from that hotel. Back when they were there in the spring ... they would be on our lawn, on our benches. I’m walking around the building, what do I walk upon? Three men urinating on the building,” Lewis said. “I don’t want them there. Take them someplace else or send them back to Venezuela, I don’t care where they go.

“This is wrong ... 73 percent of the people homeless in this city are Black people. What have you done for them?” Lewis asked, drawing claps and cheers from some in the crowd. “What are you doing for the thousands of Black children who are not in school?”

After hearing the shouting and similar rhetoric from some in the crowd, Vasquez, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said residents were playing into the hands of those seeking to divide Black and Brown communities by sending the buses to the city.

“It is an intentional attack on the city of Chicago to get us to be divided,” Vasquez said, eliciting some claps. “They don’t want to see a successful Democratic Party, they don’t want to see the president reelected, they want to see Chicago look like a disaster.”

Brenda Delgado, who said she volunteers at the police stations where some migrants were staying, said the city should step up to help their new neighbors.

“This is a generous city,” Delgado said. “We are a city of immigrants.”

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