After nearly two years of meetings and negotiations, a pair of houses of hospitality for recently released, detained immigrants have opened. They are among the first in the country to specifically reach out to undocumented immigrants, who have no where else to go other than a homeless shelter.
The Marie Joseph House for Hospitality for Women opened May 8 and already four women have moved in. The residence is located on the fourth floor of a dormitory building on the campus of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
Less than one week later, the Marie Joseph House for Hospitality for Men opened in West suburban Cicero, in a reconverted convent and eight men moved in this week.
Both houses are named for a Haitian immigrant who was released from detention, and had nowhere to go. Ultimately, Marie Joseph wandered the streets of Chicago for three days before she was found dead.
“Naming the houses after her is a testament to the fact that we will never let this happen again,” says Fr. Thomas Long, CSV.
Both he and Br. Michael Gosch, CSV, serve
on the leadership team of the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, whose mission is to support the needs of people released from immigration detention, without family or a support system in the Chicago area. Their work has drawn the backing of numerous faith communities, including the Viatorians and the Sisters of Mercy.
Developing the homes was an outgrowth of the Interfaith Committee’s Post-Detention Accompaniment Network, whose volunteers developed a response network to accompany these immigrant men, women and families during the transition process. Providing them short term housing, while they get back on their feet, was the next step.
“We’re in dialogue with ICE (U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement),” says Fr. Long, “that the houses of hospitality would be a viable alternative to incarceration.”
At both residences, a house manager serves on site night and day, and case managers help them adjust to their new
surroundings and access their legal rights, ESL classes, social services, job training and education, among other things. Br. Gosch, a licensed social worker and coordinator of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office for the Viatorians, supervises the house coordinators and case managers.
An open house at both residences is planned for the near future.