Members of Evanston’s Social Services Committee voted unanimously Thursday evening to recommend that the city fund a welcoming center for immigrants.

The center would be operated by Family Focus at its building in the 5th Ward. First year funding of up to $500,000 for the program would come from the city’s federal American Rescue Plan Act grant.

Mariana Osoria, senior vice president of partnerships and engagement for Family Focus, said the group is already operating similar centers in Aurora and Chicago, where they provide an array of services, including interpretation, naturalization information, court advocacy and grief counseling.

Osoria said few migrants being shipped out of Texas by the governor there have come to Evanston so far, but the agency has pivoted staff at other centers to respond when some have arrived in those neighborhoods and supports them with emergency housing assistance and clothing.

When some arrived, Osoria said, “all they had were the clothes they were wearing.”

She said it was important to be able to respond and support their needs as quickly as possible.

Amanda Ngola.

Committee member Amanda Ngola said it sounds like the services the program would offer “are fantastic,” but she asked about funding for the program after the ARPA money runs out.

Osoria said that based on conversations with state officials, she’s hopeful that funding for such centers across the state will increase in future years, and that the state legislature already increased funding by $20 million in the last legislative session.

The proposal also received support from leaders of the Evanston Latinos organization who said their volunteer group has been trying to provide such services and know they are greatly needed.

Also speaking during public comment, School District 65 Board President Sergio Hernandez, who said he’s the son of immigrants, suggested doubling the funding to $1 million so Evanston could have “the highest quality refugee and immigrant center.”

The ARPA grant will still require City Council approval.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. As for places for the visitors to stay, there are plenty of “For Rent” signs in the neighborhoods bordering the NU campus. Perhaps landlords would be willing to make their empty properties available to the poor and hungry, possibly with some financial backing from our sanctuary city.

  2. Temporary Nature of ARPA Funds. ARPA funds are non-recurring so their use should be applied primarily to non-recurring expenditures!! This is RIGHT FROM the rules on how funds should be appropriated!
    Care should be taken to AVOID CREATING NEW PROGRAMS or add-ons to existing programs that require an ongoing financial commitment!!
    Adequate time should be taken to CAREFULLY CONSIDER all alternatives for the prudent use of ARPA funding prior to committing the resources to ensure the best use of the temporary funding.
    The influx of funds will undoubtedly benefit state and local finances, and aid in the recovery from the budgetary, economic, and financial impacts of the pandemic.
    It’s supposed to be used for: assistance to small businesses, households, and hard-hit industries, and economic recovery!!
    NOT FOR A WELCOMING CENTER!!
    Wake up Evanston!!

    1. Well said Trish. Dang! When is enough, enough? We rolled out the welcome carpet for the “needy” when Covid hit. Not just local folks needing help but from surrounding states, many have not left. Evanston was the first for reparations. Now that the weed is not the revenue making machine that it was supposed to be to fund the program, the demand is that the city fulfill the commitment. Porta Potty for the panhandlers and homeless, clean team to cleanup after the panhandlers and homeless. WHEN THE HELL DOES THIS END???? Put the “visitors” up in vacant apartments??? First, these are NOT “visitors” They are people who entered our country illegally. Had anyone ever thought about what to say to the people who are in the process of entering this country legally? I had a young man (22) working for me and when President Obama was talking about amnesty, he asked me in earnest.If he would be able to get any of the 14K he had just spent to bring his parents from Mexico legally? Fair question, no?
      Uh, have you followed how difficult it was for NYC to get the people out of the hotels once the worst of the pandemic was over. Look, the system is broken but expecting the tax paying people of Evanston to provide the monetary compensation to try and fix the world’s problems is crazy. How long are we to endure trash, crime, wonton destruction of public and private property and the lack of ability to walk into any of our stores….. The stores that the city reminds us to ” shop local” without being badgered for money? While the city thinks nothing of badgering us for more money to make up for all of societal inequalities.

      1. Showing up the the boarder and requesting asylum is perfectly legal (1967 treaty, 1980 law).

        I’m not sure what background the migrants-to-come have, but don’t assume they are “illegal.”

        That said, I agree that ARPA funds are better spent propping up Evanston’s existing programs.

  3. “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money…”

    – Margaret Thatcher

  4. Well said Trish and Albert. It seems like many Evanstonians are disengaged so they auto buy into any liberal sounding agenda without any thought. Or, they are to meek to make criticisms out of fear of being chastised by the far left in this community. I too believe in helping the needy and giving them a larger slice of the pie but it outrageous the way city government spend tax per money or allocates grants. We cannot finance or solve every problem in the world. It’s it is absurd to ask the tax payers to put up with this. What will happen when the next bus arrives? Then the next one after that? We are already cruising past our neighboring cities in terms of affordable housing and charitable giving. Enough already! Tax payer deserve value too. When will somebody stand up for us?

  5. Another feel-good project eating up ARPA funds while Evanston’s crumbling playgrounds and civic buildings are ignored.

  6. Do any of the Family Focus leaders, who agreed to this plan, live in Evanston or the 5th ward? Do they understand the 5th ward community? Are they involved in any of the current issues surrounding the new school and the community center being build right next door because the Foster Building was given away for nothing to Family Focus a long time ago? So much change is already coming to the community this is the last area of the Evanston to put a welcoming center. Family Focus, please focus on making your building welcoming for your current neighbors!

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