The Crusader Newspaper Group

Walgreens near impending migrant shelter in 21st Ward closes

The Walgreens store across the street from the proposed migrant shelter at 115th and Halsted in the 21st Ward is no longer in business.

The store closed last week, fueling speculation the closure had to do with the winterized migrant shelter that will house 2,500 migrants during the cold season. Company officials said the closure had nothing to do with the plans to put a migrant shelter across the street from the Walgreens store.

Mayor Brandon Johnson and the City Council last week passed a proposal to buy over six acres of land at 115th and Halsted to build the winterized tent facility. A winterized tent has also been approved to go up in the 12th Ward at 38th and California in Brighton Park.

Over 20,000 migrants have come to Chicago from Texas and Colorado since 2022, as sanctuary cities across the country struggle to find housing and shelter for them.

Residents in both wards have expressed concerns that migrants will take away much-needed resources in underserved neighborhoods. There are also concerns that migrant shelters will hurt nearby businesses.

In a statement to the Chicago Crusader, Walgreens spokesperson Jennifer Cotto Johnson said, “With Walgreens’ goal to be the independent partner of choice, not just in pharmacy but also in health care services where we can improve health care, lower costs and help patients, we are creating the right network of stores in the right locations.

“When faced with the difficult decision to close a location, several factors are taken into account, including our existing footprint of stores, dynamics of the local market, and changes in the buying habits of our patients and customers, among other reasons.”

Johnson also said, “I’d like to clarify that the closure was not in any way decided because of the influx of migrants to the city.”

In June, Walgreens had announced plans to close more than 150 stores across the U.S. by August 2024.

Another 300 “Boots” locations in the UK are also being shuttered by Walgreens Boots Alliance.

During a journalist’s visit to the Walgreens store, a sign was posted on the door of the facility, directing customers to go to the Walgreens store at 12854 S. Ashland Ave. in Calumet Park. Walgreens’ officials said that’s where the store’s patient pharmacy files will be transferred. That’s nearly three miles from the closed Walgreens. The nearest location is the Walgreen store at 103rd and Michigan Avenue.

In a statement posted on social media, Alderman Ronnie Mosley said he’s frustrated by the news, adding in part, “this is the only stand-alone pharmacy in the 21st Ward …. This closure has a significant impact on our seniors, youth and those with chronic health conditions.”

In the fiscal third quarter, Walgreens slashed its earnings forecast for the year and raised a cost-cutting goal after missing analysts’ profit expectations in its fiscal third quarter. Walgreens said it was hurt in part by significantly lower COVID-19 vaccine and testing sales.

In the last five years, Walgreens has been criticized for closing businesses in struggling Black neighborhoods where residents rely on their pharmacies to get their prescriptions. Since 2017, Walgreens has closed stores in Calumet Heights, Chatham, South Shore, Woodlawn and Auburn Gresham and in Gary, Indiana.

In September, Rosalind Brewer, Walgreens first Black CEO, announced she’s leaving the company after less than three years on the job.

With slumping profits, it’s not clear whether Brewer’s departure was voluntary. In a statement at the time, Walgreens said, “the Board of Directors and Rosalind Brewer have mutually agreed that Ms. Brewer will step down as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and as a member of the Board, as of August 31, 2023.”

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