A report finds that some 2,500 migrants are living in squalid conditions in Chicago in a city-sponsored facility that was converted from a warehouse to a migrant shelter.
A report claims that the shelter is infested with rats and cockroaches, is covered in rotting food and garbage, has water quality issues, and has open sewage problems, among other issues, Chicago’s WTTW reported.
The complaints about the conditions at the shelter in the 2200 block of South Halsted Avenue were revealed in emails sent to Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson in October well ahead of the incident in December when a migrant child died at Comer Children’s Hospital after he took ill in the shelter.
Several other migrants at the same shelter had also fallen ill in the days after the child died. City officials have still not released any cause of death for the child.
WTTW reported that an email dated from October was sent to city hall alerting Mayor Johnson’s administration about the wretched conditions at the shelter. It was reportedly sent by 11th Ward Alderwoman Nicole Lee.
The station initially filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the emails but received documents that were nearly entirely redacted. However, government watchdog group FOIA Bakery obtained the unredacted messages and shared them with the station.
“The redacted parts allege the shelter had insufficient bathrooms, exposed pipes with raw sewage, cockroach infestation, a possible outbreak of illness with many people being sick, insufficient provision of meals and water,” WTTW reported.
Further emails showed city officials had replied to the emails and had been working to confirm the conditions.
Alderwoman Lee told the station she “remains concerned about the living conditions within the shelter.”
“Transparency around the conditions at these shelters is crucial, and we will continue to push for information and accountability in order to ensure individuals under our care are treated with the humanity that everyone deserves,” Lee added in a statement.
The city has contracted with a company called Favorite Staffing to maintain the shelter.
Favorite Staffing Vice President Keenan Driver told the station that they take the complaints “very seriously.”
“Favorite Staffing takes all staff complaints very seriously because we are concerned not only about the migrants, but about the safety and well-being of our own staff,” Driver’s statement read.
The city released a statement acknowledging the complaints and insists that improvements are in the works.
The statement added that “because of the rapid expansion of this shelter population, the city had to make improvements to the shelter, while, at the same time, intaking hundreds of new arrivals,” according to the Guardian.
Meanwhile, the city continues to contract with more private groups to help care for the wave of illegal immigrants entering the city thanks to President Joe Biden’s border crisis.
In January, the city revealed a new contract with a company connected to local fast food favorite Buona Beef to help feed the thousands of illegal aliens at city shelters.
The city handed a company called 14 Parish a $57 million contract and gave a $45 million contract to Seventy-Seven Communities to feed migrants.
Joe Buonavolanto Jr., one of the sons of the founder of Buona Beef, is listed as the executive director of Seventy-Seven Communities. Buonavolanto is not the only Buona Beef connection, either, as Seventy-Seven’s director is Mike Iovinelli, who is also the vice president of Buona Beef’s catering company, Beyond Catering, according to Book Club Chicago.
“Seventy-Seven Communities has been delivering quality meals around Chicagoland for decades and has experience creating specific menus for groups with complex needs, such as Chicago Public Schools students,” a city press release claimed.
Mayoral spokesperson Ronnie Reese said that the city did not intentionally leave the Buona Beef connection out of its press releases on the contracts.
The snafu, though, comes as calls for transparency have grown around the spending and contracts conducted by the mayor’s office.