Chicago y otras ciudades de EEUU pasan problemas para albergar a migrantes ante la llegada del frío/Chicago and other US cities struggle to house asylum-seekers as winter weather hits

Chicago y otras ciudades de EEUU pasan problemas para albergar a migrantes ante la llegada del frío/Chicago and other US cities struggle to house asylum-seekers as winter weather hits

Por Sophia Tareen

Chicago, Illinois (AP) — Cuando las primeras ráfagas de frío azotaron a Chicago, decenas de familias inmigrantes sin un lugar donde vivir fueron trasladadas de las nevadas calles de la ciudad hacia el sótano de la Iglesia Luterana del Buen Pastor, en un suburbio cercano.

La solución temporal de último momento, que se implementó alrededor de la 1 de la mañana del miércoles y que fue coordinada por voluntarios y funcionarios de los suburbios, se produjo en un momento en el que Chicago y otras ciudades han atravesado problemas para albergar a la creciente población de solicitantes de asilo antes de la llegada del invierno.

El alcalde Brandon Johnson ha propuesto instalar carpas acondicionadas para el invierno, como en Nueva York, y más refugios para albergar a los migrantes que duermen en cuarteles de policía, aeropuertos y calles. Pero voluntarios, iglesias y algunos concejales afirman que la respuesta es demasiado lenta e ineficaz.

“La buena voluntad y las obras benéficas no pueden solucionar problemas sistémicos”, dijo Annie Gomberg, quien forma parte de una red de voluntarios que coordina la entrega de comida y ropa en los cuarteles de policía. “Se trata de una falta de infraestructura y de planeación”.

Problemas similares podrían producirse a medida que empiece a azotar el clima invernal en Nueva York, que pasa dificultades para alojar a una creciente población de migrantes, y en Denver, que durante una helada reciente se vio obligado a flexibilizar sus normas en torno a cuánto tiempo pueden estar los migrantes en los albergues.

Más de 20.000 migrantes han llegado a Chicago desde el año pasado, la mayoría de ellos luego de ser enviados en autobús por el gobernador de Texas, Greg Abbott.

Más de 3.000 migrantes viven dentro de aeropuertos y cuarteles de policía mientras esperan a ser colocados en albergues, incluidas las casas de campo del distrito de parques, aunque algunos se han ido a tiendas de campaña en calles adjuntas y terrenos baldíos debido al hacinamiento. El objetivo final, según las autoridades, es conseguir vivienda permanente e independiente.

Las organizaciones de voluntarios, que han proporcionado la mayor parte de alimentos y prendas de vestir, señalan que ahora también dan recomendaciones para sobrevivir al invierno. Vestir con varias capas de ropa es un concepto nuevo para muchos de los migrantes que están acostumbrados a climas más cálidos. Las temperaturas bajaron el miércoles a unos 0 grados Celsius (30 grados Fahrenheit).

Muchos de los migrantes son oriundos de Venezuela, donde la crisis política, económica y social ha sumido en la pobreza a millones de personas. Al menos 7,3 millones de personas han abandonado la nación sudamericana, muchas de ellas poniendo su vida en peligro al realizar el peligroso viaje a pie hacia Estados Unidos.

Las tiendas de campaña donadas están cubiertas con cartón, cobijas y lonas para protegerse del frío.

La venezolana Gleicy Martínez, de 27 años, ha vivido durante tres semanas en una tienda de campaña ubicada fuera de un cuartel de la policía de Chicago junto a sus dos hijos, incluido un pequeño de 9 años que es invidente.

Rara vez salen de la tienda debido al frío. Cuando la tormenta azotó el martes, entraron al cuartel de la policía, pero estaba lleno. Caminaron a una tienda departamental cercana para calentarse un poco.

Funcionarios de la ciudad señalaron que la llegada de los migrantes es un problema heredado que están tratando de abordar.

El gobierno de Johnson ha abierto más de una decena de albergues desde que asumió el cargo en mayo. Funcionarios de la ciudad han buscado sitios para colocar tiendas de campaña para soportar el invierno, pero hay pocos detalles al respecto. Johnson cree que Chicago gastará aproximadamente 255 millones de dólares en la crisis de migrantes durante 2023.

Johnson comentó a los reporteros el miércoles que su objetivo seguía siendo colocar a los migrantes en refugios antes del invierno.

Los reporteros de The Associated Press Melissa Perez Winder en Chicago; Jesse Bedayn en Denver, y Jake Offenhartz en Nueva York contribuyeron a este despacho.

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Chicago and other US cities struggle to house asylum-seekers as winter weather hits

Chicago, Illinois (AP) — As the first blast of wintry weather hit Chicago, dozens of migrant families without a place to live were moved off snowy city streets and into the basement of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in a nearby suburb.

The last-minute, temporary solution around 1 a.m. Wednesday, coordinated by volunteers and suburban officials, came as Chicago and other cities have struggled to house the growing population of asylum-seekers ahead of the deep winter months. Mayor Brandon Johnson has proposed winterized tents, like in New York, and more shelters to house migrants who are sleeping in police stationsairports and the streets. But volunteers, churches and some aldermen say the response is too slow and inefficient.

“Good will and charity cannot fix systemic problems,” said Annie Gomberg, who is part of a volunteer network that coordinates meals and clothing at police stations. “This is a lack of infrastructure and a lack of planning.”

Similar issues could occur as wintry weather closes in on New York, which is struggling to accommodate a growing migrant population, and Denver, which was prompted to loosen its rules on how long migrants are kept in shelter during a recent cold snap.

More than 20,000 migrants have arrived in Chicago since last year, largely under the direction of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

More than 3,000 are living inside airports and police stations while they await shelter placements, including in park district field houses, although some have moved into tents in adjacent streets and vacant lots due to overcrowding. The end goal, officials say, is permanent independent housing.

Volunteer organizations, who have provided the bulk of meals and clothing, say they’re now giving winter survival tips, too. Layering clothing is a novel concept for most of the migrants who are used to warmer climates. Temperatures dipped to the low 30s (around 0 Celsius) by Wednesday.

Many are from Venezuela, where a political, social and economic crisis has pushed millions of people into poverty. At least 7.3 million have left the country, with many risking a dangerous route by foot to the United States.

The donated tents are lined with cardboard, blankets and draped with tarps to ward against the cold.

Gleicy Martinez, 27, from Venezuela, has lived for three weeks in a tent outside a Chicago police station with her two children, including a 9-year-old who is blind.

They rarely leave the tent because of the cold. When the storm hit Tuesday, they went inside the police station but it was too full. They walked to a nearby Target store for warmth.

“The snow caught us unexpectedly,” Martinez said Wednesday. “We didn’t know it was going to snow.”

City officials call the migrants’ arrival an inherited issue that they’re trying to address.

Johnson’s administration has opened over a dozen more shelters since he took office in May. City officials have scouted locations for winterized tents, but details are sparse. Johnson estimates Chicago will spend roughly $255 million on the migrant crisis in 2023.

Johnson told reporters Wednesday that his goal was still to get migrants into shelters by winter.

“I’m working every single day to create spaces to move people out of police stations and do it in a way that is dignified,” he said. “It’s cold but winter is not here yet.”

This week, the city publicized its cold weather efforts, including providing 16 “warming buses” at police stations during overnight hours. Last month, the city touted its partnerships with outside organizations.

On Wednesday, Johnson and the mayors of four other cities wrote to President Joe Biden, seeking a meeting to secure more federal resources.

Those cities included New York, where thousands of migrants are sleeping in climate-controlled tents erected on empty parking lots and athletic fields, as well as a former airport runway. The facilities are kept warm by industrial heaters.

New York hasn’t experienced the same issues as Chicago, yet, but that could soon change: Local officials want to suspend a unique legal agreement guaranteeing overnight shelter to those without housing.

As New York struggles to accommodate its growing migrant population, Mayor Eric Adams has suggested that new arrivals may soon be forced to sleep in the streets, a “terrible situation” he’s painted as inevitable.

In Denver, some migrants are living in tents, including over the weekend when the lows reached 12 degrees (minus 11 Celsius). Denver suspended its limits on how many days migrants can stay at a shelter because of the weather, but restored them as temperatures reached above 20 degrees Tuesday and kicked roughly 200 people out.

Elis Aponte, 47, from Venezuela, was staying in a tent in Denver. She said she feared she would freeze to death going to a bathroom at a gas station across the street. She wore a red puffy jacket and ski gloves,

“It was freezing, freezing cold,” she said, noting her five blankets.

In Oak Park, just 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Chicago, the Rev. Kathy Nolte received a call from officials around 1 a.m. asking if she could open up her church. Within minutes, a bus of migrants had arrived at the doors of Good Shephard, mostly families with young children.

Later, she performed a blessing for them and their journey. She hopes the church shelter is short-lived.

“We got them into a place where they could have warmth and a sense of their space,” she said.

Associated Press reporters Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago; Jesse Bedayn in Denver; and Jake Offenhartz in New York contributed to this report.

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