Vigil held for 5-year-old migrant boy who died at Chicago shelter
Jean Carlos Martinez was a resident at a warehouse retrofitted as a shelter in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood when he suffered a medical emergency, the city said. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital Sunday afternoon.
Six more people living in the shelter — four children and two adults — were hospitalized this week, Chicago Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford said.
All had been living in the same shelter as Martinez, whose family arrived in Chicago on Nov. 30. The cause of death was still pending Wednesday, according to Cook County medical examiner records.
This was a preventable death. This was also a predictable death,” said social worker Britt Hodgdon, who spoke at the vigil. “People are here. They are our brothers and sisters. They deserve to be safe and cared for and living in humane conditions.”
Migrant mothers were crying at the vigil. One young migrant child came to put a candle at the site and wouldn’t stop crying, saying she missed her friend.
While city officials dismissed on Tuesday the notion of an outbreak at the shelter, there have been clusters of illness at other shelters where people sleep on cots close to each other, including chicken pox and hand, foot and mouth disease. Area doctors are growing increasingly worried about RSV and COVID-19 this winter.
“These are hard environments for people to rest and feel good and be able to take care of themselves,” said Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, who recently toured the shelter where the boy was living. She runs a nearby food pantry and has spent most of her medical career working with homeless, immigrant and low-income populations.