Pilsen community activists continue to help migrants despite tense encounter – NBC Chicago

On the evening of October 13, Delilah Martinez was with colleagues delivering goods to migrant families at a shelter in Humboldt Park. They had gathered daily outside the Salvation Army location on Christiana Avenue since learning that busloads of migrant families were being dropped off in Chicago and taken to that very spot.

This night was different.

A confrontation outside the shelter rocked the Pilsen entrepreneur, keeping him up all night.

“I haven’t slept,” Martinez posted on Facebook at 8:45 a.m. the next morning. “I’m sad, disgusted and feeling helpless right now.”

It refers to a situation filmed outside the Shield of Hope shelter, 924 N. Christiana Avenue.

In the video, a man claiming to work with the Salvation Army came charging outside the facility shouting profanities at the group.

“There are places where you can take this stuff,” the employee said, to which Martinez replied, “They’re here! Why don’t we bring it to them directly?”

“People come here for a reason. They seek refuge,” said William Guerrero, also known as “The Kid from Pilsen.” “They are not here for the danger. They are just seeking refuge.

As a community activist, Guerrero said “the groups’ initial reaction was to help no matter what.”

Since late August, more than 3,500 migrants have been transferred by bus from the US border in Texas to Chicago. The state of Illinois welcomes immigrants every year, but at this rate it is putting a strain on resources.

The City of Chicago, in conjunction with the State of Illinois, Cook County government, and nonprofit organizations provided health care, food, and shelter to the men, women, and children who arrived from Texas.

In an exclusive interview on Wednesday, Governor JB Pritzker told NBC 5, “This is an Illinois state humanitarian enterprise. That’s what you should do.”

However, as much as state and local community groups want to help, the need continues to grow.

Delilah Martinez owns the Vault Gallery in Pilsen and is the founder of Mural Movement, the group responsible for the poignant social justice murals painted across Chicago. She says her own efforts began when she received a call from a colleague on August 28.

“One of my partners, Ricky Medina, called me and said, ‘Well, we have a lot of migrants from Venezuela. They are refused at the Texas border. They will arrive soon. What can we do ? “, she recalls. “So I immediately thought, well, we’ll use the gallery.”

Martinez said at the start that the goal was to collect toiletries and food for people being bussed in Chicago.

“We had no idea what we were dealing with at first,” she recalls.

She said Medina went in the middle of the night to help transfer the arriving refugees, but there was no transportation available to get them to the shelter. At that time, they noticed that the migrants weren’t wearing much.

“They had no shoes, socks, coats or clothes,” Martinez said. “We really worried.”

That’s when the plan changed.

Martinez, Medina and Guerrero began meeting with families to find out their specific needs. The group posted on social media asking for donated items such as clothing, blankets and funds to provide international cellphones.

“The first few days, they are very confusing,” she explained. “They don’t know the language. They don’t know people. They must be able to trust people.

“One of the biggest complaints about being in this shelter is that it’s really cold,” Martinez told NBC 5, adding that the refugees were begging for blankets.

The partners were left bewildered when their good intentions weren’t met with the welcome they had hoped for when they visited the Salvation Army shelter in Humboldt Park. Martinez said the first time they showed up with employee food, the group didn’t feel welcome.

“We understand that they didn’t really know us at first,” she said. “That’s why we tried to explain to them who we are and what we do. However, they continue to give us a hard time on a daily basis. That didn’t stop us. We keep going because we show up, and we always notice that people still don’t have shoes, still don’t have socks, still don’t have coats.

Martinez said they never received policies or procedures for donations, but explained that an employee told them that if a resident of Shield of Hope accepted an item from the humanitarian group outside, he would not be allowed to seek refuge.

NBC 5 contacted The Salvation Army and received a joint statement from the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services and the Salvation Army’s Northern and Central Illinois Division. He said “donations will not be accepted directly at any of the facilities housing newcomers.”

Also in that statement, the Salvation Army said it “leverages our existing relationships with organizations and policy experts to develop a base of services that meet the specific needs of these people.”

However, the organization is aware that outside groups want to help.

“As a welcoming city, we know that the people of Chicago are ready to show their generosity and support these people – and we welcome that,” the statement continued. “In order to have the most positive impact and protect the well-being of these vulnerable people, we appreciate your cooperation in ensuring a coordinated effort.”

As for the employee in the video, the Salvation Army said the worker had been reassigned and that the organization “does not condone such behavior from a member of the Salvation Army and that this behavior does not reflect the values ​​of The Salvation Army”.

Martinez, however, still has concerns, saying no one has contacted her to work together or to address the incident captured on video.

Meanwhile, Pritzker is calling on the federal government to send aid as Illinois continues to help migrants meet their needs.

“They really have the resources,” Pritzker said, referring to the federal government. “…And it’s a responsibility of theirs, that’s why we’re asking.”

“We can’t wait for this response,” William Guerrero said. “We have to do things now.”

The group still collects clothes for adults and children.

Every day, Illinois sees an increasing number of migrant families arrive, but Martinez says she doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

“I do what I’m supposed to do,” she said. “I always, I always knew that I wanted to help people and be there for them and help raise voices that feel unnoticed or underserved. But I never imagined that there were so many people supporting him.

NBC Chicago

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