Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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D65 offers migrant assistance amid lack of city support, advocates say

Daily file photo by Patrick Svitek
The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Joseph E. Hill Education Center.

As the influx of Central American asylum-seekers in the Chicago area grows, Evanston has offered limited housing and funds to incoming migrants, instead directing them to a South Loop intake center.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 has consistently offered help for migrant students and their families, according to Evanston resident Kristin Huzar, who housed a family of four Venezuelan migrants for nine months last year. 

“The one agency in Evanston that I would say that’s been so, so supportive are the schools,” Huzar said. “The school social worker signed them up to do Shop With a Cop to ensure that they would have Christmas presents.”

Shop With a Cop, an opportunity for at-risk youth to shop with a Chicago Police officer, helped the family’s two school-aged children, who are enrolled in District 65. 

“I was afraid that they weren’t going to have very many presents, or really none at all, except for the ones I gave them,” Huzar added.

Evanston currently also has a Refugee Assistance Fund of $50,000, but the number of people supported it has not been “huge,” Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) told The Daily last month.

The Evanston School Children’s Clothing Association, a nonprofit started during the Great Depression to provide free clothes to D65 K-8 students, helped the two children while the city provided little, according to Huzar. 

D65 students are referred to the ESCCA’s free store by district health clerks or social workers. Equipped with a translator service, the makeshift retail environment offers winter coats, fleeces and jeans and gives each student a pair of gym shoes and boots. The clothes are sourced through gently-used donations and by partner organizations like the Woman’s Club of Evanston.

ESCCA co-President Allison Hackney said she has heard all kinds of stories about ESCCA’s impact — she said she recently heard about a high school student’s multigenerational experience, going back two generations of Mexican immigrants. She said that story reflects the program’s importance.

“Serving immigrants and migrants is a benefit to the Evanston community,” Hackney added. “We served this family so long ago and now, generations later, this woman is volunteering for ESCCA.”

In December 2022, when the need for clothing increased along with the migrant influx, ESCCA had around 90 children on a waiting list for its free store. The nonprofit had to increase the number of days a week the free store was open. Now, around 500 kids are served per night.

“We’re very responsive to what we hear the needs of the students in our district are, and we’re able to very much personalize the service to what kids need,” Hackney said. 

Along with providing clothes, ESCCA helps families feel welcome, she added. 

“What I think makes ESCCA so great is that it is the Evanston community caring for its own community members in a very tangible way,” Hackney said. “Everytime you go in and serve at ESCCA, you know you’ve met a need somebody had.” 

Email: [email protected]

X: @shreyasrin

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