The scramble to help newly arrived migrants, R. Kelly’s sentence and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a five-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE The scramble to help newly arrived migrants, R. Kelly’s sentence and more in your Chicago news roundup
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Kristin Huzar sits in her living room at her home in Evanston, where she has taken in a migrant family.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with a low near 38 degrees. Expect similar weather tonight with a low near 19 degrees. Tomorrow will be partly sunny with a high near 29.

Top story

Chicago groups scramble to find housing for newly arrived immigrants 6 months after busing began

When a Venezuelan family arrived in Chicago in December after a three-month journey from South America, they found a city with little shelter space.

While Kevin had arrived earlier and found a shelter bed before his partner, Legna, and their two children crossed the border into Texas, it was far more difficult to secure a home for the entire family. They ended up spending days sleeping in waiting rooms, the hallway of a shelter and on the floor of a Chicago police station.

“I thought they were going to help my family seek shelter,” said Kevin, who asked that his family’s full names not be published. “It was more complicated. It was harder finding shelter for all of us.”

As people seeking asylum continue to arrive in Chicago, officials are grappling with how to provide housing. Efforts to convert spaces into temporary shelters at times have been met with controversy. And amid a shortage of beds, community groups and volunteers have scrambled to catch new arrivals like Kevin and his family who have fallen through the cracks.

There are more than 3,000 beds at 50 facilities that get support and funding from the city’s Department of Family and Support Services, according to its website. Chicago is expected to receive $20 million from the state for shelter, transportation, basic health, food and first aid for new arrivals, though Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked for $53.5 million.

Since August, more than 5,140 immigrants have arrived in Chicago, including those sent on chartered buses from Texas and Colorado. In February, there were about 2,100 living in the shelter system, city officials said at a community meeting. The city started to experience a shortage of beds in December, when it would sometimes take days to get someone placed in a shelter, said Ere Rendón, vice president of immigrant justice at the nonprofit Resurrection Project.

That meant the asylum seekers had to stay at police stations, warming centers or with someone from the community, she said. The city has created makeshift shelters in various locations, including the Northerly Island visitor center. The state is also planning to turn a building that once housed a Kmart on the Southwest Side into a temporary shelter.

Elvia Malagón has more on the efforts to support newly arrived migrants here.

More news you need

Elections 2023

Chicago mayoral candidates Ald. Sophia King (4th), Cook County Board Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Illinois State Rep. Kim Buckner, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Ja’Mal Green join activists from Good Kids, Mad City and Northwestern Students and community members for a Good Kids, Mad City mayoral forum at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

Ald. Sophia King, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, state Rep. Kam Buckner, Ald. Roderick Sawyer and activist Ja’Mal Green attend a forum hosted by youth group Good Kids Mad City at Northwestern University’s campus on the Near North Side.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The mayoral race

Chicago youth group Good Kids Mad City hosted a mayoral forum yesterday to discuss issues important to the city’s younger population on the South and West sides, including how to stop gun violence.

Candidates State Rep. Kam Buckner, activist Ja’Mal Green, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Ald. Sophia King and Ald. Roderick Sawyer participated in the event, which was held at Northwestern University’s law school campus on the Near North Side. Young people affected by gun violence spoke to candidates at the forum about their experiences and how community-based organizations have helped them.

Our Emmanuel Camarillo has more from the forum here.

City Council races

The question of who will represent a West Side ward that includes the most violent area in Chicago is no longer a done deal after a challenger was restored to the ballot.

Shawn Walker, a native of the ward and lone challenger to incumbent Ald. Jason Ervin, had been scratched from the 28th Ward ballot last month after the Chicago Board of Elections ruled he did not have enough valid signatures on his petitions. But the Illinois Appellate Court overturned that decision last Friday. That means Walker, 49, will face Ervin, who is chair of the Chicago City Council’s Black caucus, and was first elected in 2011.

Our Michael Loria has more on the 28th Ward election here.

Ald. Ed Burke and former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan aren’t on the ballot this month — but the pair of indicted Southwest Side politicians loom large over three City Council races. In the two-candidate contest to succeed Burke in the 14th Ward, Jeylú Gutiérrez — district director for Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya — faces Raul Reyes, a City Clerk’s office employee who once worked for Burke’s brother, former state Rep. Dan Burke, and also helped the longest serving City Council member in Chicago history gather signatures for his 2018 run.

And in the nearby 13th and 23rd Wards, two incumbents — one who broke with Madigan and the other a longtime ally — are seeking reelection as residents’ whispers about the indicted former political powerhouse compete with the roar of the jets from nearby Midway Airport.

Our Tina Sfondeles has more on these ward races here.

Be sure to check out our election hub, a one-stop-shop of resources to help you as you prepare to make your voice heard.

A bright one

Nearing 100, Artist Laureate of Illinois Kay Smith says her passion for painting keeps her going

At 99, Kay Smith has worn many hats in her lifetime, from mom and commercial illustrator to teacher and artist.

It’s the latter distinction that puts a national spotlight on Smith, who turns 100 on Feb. 27. The city of Chicago has declared Feb. 27 “Kay Smith Day,” in recognition of her role as Artist Laureate of Illinois.

Smith was named a laureate along with five other recipients in 1994 by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. The honor recognizes individuals who have made “contributions to the betterment of humanity that have been accomplished in or on behalf of the State of Illinois, or, whose achievements have brought honor to the state,” according to the organization’s website. Smith spent the vast portion of her life working on commissions for organizations and foundations, which led to her work being recognized across Illinois.

As Smith approaches her milestone birthday, she said she’s hugely appreciative of her career, which she claims keeps her going every day.

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The work of Illinois Artist Laureate Kay Smith surrounds the watercolorist in her Lincoln Park Home. Smith briefly attended the School of the Art Institute before being offered an assignment that launched her career decades ago as a commercial illustrator.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Her daughter, Julia Smith, 64, says her mother has never stopped being determined.

“Watching her career as I grew up was beautiful; I was always proud of my mother, and her career lives on through her art all over the country,” Smith said.

Kay Smith says she continues to paint in the hopes of inspiring future generations.

“My birthday wish is for people to recognize the importance of art and the need for passionate artists,” Smith said. My advice to aspiring artists is to be persistent; it will take you a long way.”

Vanessa Lopez has more on Smith’s legacy here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

Say you’ve been tasked with creating a new superhero from Chicago for an upcoming movie. What is their name and superpower?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: How would you describe what dating in Chicago is like to someone new here?

Here’s what some of you said...

“Wonderful! There is so much to do — and then the lake.” — John Green

“Very difficult lol. Most men are looking for hookups here. There’s so many fish in the sea but finding connections is tough work.” — Avalon Vorisek

“Everyone knows each other lol.” — Rafael Negron Sr.

“‘Cubs or Sox’ is required for the Bumble profile.” — Rae Vanessa

“Old guys searching twenty years younger. Lifetime of bad decisions.” — Sandra J. Harney

“Expensive. Just a movie is like 15 bucks a ticket plus popcorn and dinner. It’s pricey.” — Myrna Kar

“If they smell like Malört — walk away!” — Mary Catherine

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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