FEMA relief for flooded homeowners
Disaster relief for Cook County residents is now available for homeowners, renters, and businesses impacted by summer floods and storm damage between June 29 and July 2, 2023. Four FEMA assistance centers will be open until mid-October for people who experienced three to four feet of water flooding. Individuals can apply for grants or low-interest loans. However, FEMA deputy regional administrator Mike Chesney emphasized that this is just help, saying, “FEMA assistance is not intended to get you back to where you were before the disaster.” Residents can apply for FEMA relief online, by calling the helpline at 800-621-3362 or via the FEMA mobile app. People can also visit the assistance centers in person located in Washington Square Mall, Morton College, Columbus Park Fieldhouse, and the Berwyn Grove Avenue Parking Garage. If you choose to go in-person, make sure to bring along a photo ID, an insurance policy, and any receipts documenting related expenses. No appointments are necessary; the deadline to register is October 16.
Chairman Fred Hampton Day designation
Last week, Mayor Brandon Johnson declared August 30 Chairman Fred Hampton Day to honor the late civil rights leader and deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party’s Illinois chapter. Johnson presented Hampton’s son, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., and Hampton’s wife Mama Aka N’Jeri with a copy of the declaration in front of the West Side house on 2337 W. Monroe Street where Hampton was assassinated by Chicago police in 1969. As a Black Panther, Hampton founded the anti-racist, class-conscious, multiracial political alliance known as the Rainbow Coalition, which brought together the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the poor white Young Patriots Organization, and the Blackstone Rangers street gang. With their combined resources, the Rainbow Coalition provided aid to low-income citizens and agitated for better housing and living conditions.
Hampton’s life was cut short at age twenty-one when police shot him in his bed on December 4, 1969. Standing outside Hampton’s former home, Johnson stated, “Chairman Fred embodied what clearly is a demonstration of power, a demonstration of one of the strongest, if not the strongest force on the planet. And that’s love.”
Chicago needs federal assistance for asylum seekers
One year ago this week, the first busload of asylum seekers arrived in Chicago. Since then, Chicago has taken in more than 13,000 people; currently, 6,500 are staying at sixteen City-run shelters.
Mayor Johnson has repeatedly said that he inherited the City’s response from his predecessor even while seeking new avenues to feed and house asylum seekers. Johnson opened new shelters and engaged with networks of mutual-aid volunteers to manage the crisis. Plans to open shelters have repeatedly faced pushback from residents (see “Hyde Park Divided,” p. 19). In August, a volunteer-run shelter in Pilsen was forced to close due to a lack of funding.
Johnson wants to stop using police stations as temporary shelters, a practice begun under former mayor Lightfoot. Allegations of mistreatment have emerged at multiple stations. On a recent call with volunteers, Rey Wences, Johnson’s first deputy mayor of immigrant, migrant, and refugee rights, said the City hopes to stop using police stations as shelters by the winter.
With costs approaching the hundreds of millions, Johnson and his allies are pushing for federal assistance. In mid-August, Congresspersons Jonathan Jackson (IL-1) and Delia Ramirez (IL-3) joined a few alders to quietly tour shelters at the 3rd Police District and former Wadsworth Elementary School in Woodlawn ahead of what sources described as a behind-the-scenes push for federal funding. Last week, Mayor Johnson joined Governor J.B. Pritzker to publicly call on the feds to fast-track work authorization permits for migrants.
The buses keep coming, averaging one per day. The City is now considering opening another new shelter in Greektown. But its ad hoc response isn’t adequate or sustainable, and more funding is required. The need for federal assistance is dire.