Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) after a heated discussion in the back of the Chicago City Council chambers, June 23

Woodlawn is a beautiful community with a history of activism, resilience and care. It has been a home for Black residents escaping the racist South since the early 1900s. Though frequently met with violence, Black families remained and built a determined community. In more recent history, Woodlawn has welcomed Black residents, like myself, being displaced by the gentrification from other neighborhoods in our own city. In the spirit of this legacy, I am urging us to welcome asylum seekers and unhoused local residents to the vacant Wadsworth building. I hope that we can learn from each other, and continue our rich history of community collaboration.

Too often, the City of Chicago has pitted Black and brown communities against each other. Mayor Lightfoot’s administration has done just that through their lack of transparency and unwillingness to address community demands. I want my community to be respected and supported with resources after decades of racist disinvestment, AND I want our city to be a real sanctuary for those in search of a better life . We can do both. My office will be hosting a community meeting on February 16th to discuss WITH the community how we can welcome our new neighbors to Woodlawn and demand resources for longtime community residents.”

As a response to what I heard in the previous community meetings, I offered the Mayor and her team the list of demands below to ensure Sanctuary for All in Woodlawn and the 20th Ward as a whole. So far, the Department of Family & Support Services has only agreed to open the shelter to both asylum-seekers and unhoused city residents along with vague commitments to provide immigration services to current 20th Ward immigrants through an existing program and engage Woodlawn neighbors in a community process to determine the use of other vacant Chicago Public School properties in the ward. The vacant Wadsworth building will go through a community process when the shelter closes. I am calling on Mayor Lightfoot’s administration to agree to the following:

  • Commit to 50% hiring and contracting of Woodlawn residents, businesses, and organizations at the shelter
  • Turn Wadsworth Elementary into a long term community resource
  • Create a $5 million fund to support Woodlawn residents that show proof of rent or tax-burden–regardless of income
  • Identify the remaining locations of the 52 lots promised for affordable housing in the Woodlawn Housing Ordinance
  • Reopen the Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic
  • Detail the plan to provide immigration services to existing immigrants across the 20th ward
  • No police presence or access to cameras inside the shelter. Police patrols outside the building should be logged in detail (Officer name(s), Badge number(s) and License Plate/Vehicle number along with time of patrol)”

(1) comment

Ulysses Finally Home

As a homeowner adjacent to the site, and probably the homeowner closest to the site, I couldn't agree more with Alderman Taylor. The former Wadsworth school is only available BECAUSE the city has not honored ANY of the promises and assurances made to the community since the school was vacated. The work began with a "Daley-esque Meigs Field" attempt to get the conversion well underway before notifying anyone, BECAUSE they knew it was wrong and intentionally so. Because I personally use the fields and greenspace and have personally removed glass, bottles, and even dead animal carcasses WHEN THE CITY NEGLECTED IT FOR YEARS ON END, I claim the right to have a say.

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