565 Howard St. (Google Maps)

Connections for the Homeless, in a strongly worded letter to city officials, has rejected the idea of relocating its shelter operations from the Margarita Inn downtown to a site on Howard Street.

The Howard Street location was proposed by owners of property on either side of the Margarita, located at 1566 Oak Ave.

Larry Starkman of Wesley Realty Group, which owns the Oak Crest Apartments at 1570 Oak Ave., has proposed an apartment building he owns at 565 Howard St. as the alternate homeless shelter site.

The Margarita Inn,1566 Oak Ave., center, flanked by the Halim Museum at 1560 Oak on the left and the Oak Crest Apartments at 1570 Oak on the right. (Google Maps image)

And Nefrette Halim, whose family owns the Halim Time & Glass Museum at 1560 Oak, has proposed adding the parking lot her family owns across Clyde Avenue from Starkman’s building as a possible site for a new-construction facility for Connections.

Starkman claims he’s been told by Michael Pure, the owner of the Margarita, that Connections will pay Pure $7.75 million to buy the Margarita, roughly three times the $2.68 million current estimated market value assigned to the Margarita by the Cook County Assessor’s office.

And he says he’d be willing to take a tax loss on the sale of his property — which the assessor now values at $2.45 million.

Connections Executive Director Betty Bogg has declined to specify what the organization has agreed to pay Pure for the Margarita.

Halim says both Wesley Realty and her family own other properties on the block of Clyde north of Howard, so they would still have Connections as a neighbor if the Howard Street site were used.

But she says it would reduce the negative impact she claims the Margarita has had on downtown businesses and would still provide convenient access to public transit for Connections clients — with the Howard CTA station about a quarter mile to the east.

But Bogg, in her letter included in the packet for Wednesday’s Land Use Commission hearing on Connections’ special use permit application for continued use of the Margarita, says the former hotel on Oak Avenue “is, by far, the best facility available.”

“The sheer cost in time and money of these alternate proposals, even with reduced purchase prices, makes them unviable,” Bogg says.

She says the group would have to duplicate expenses it has already incurred trying to win approval for the Margarita site and would risk “the goodwill of our supporters who want us to be at the Margarita Inn.”

She also says splitting the shelter between multiple buildings would add to operating costs.

And she notes that another organization, Northside Housing and Supportive Services, has plans for a new shelter at 7464 N. Clark St., just a block south of the Evanston border.

Boggs adds, “It does not make sense to move the shelter from a highly functional and unique location that is ready to use, and happens to be located in a pirmarily white neighborhood, to a primarily black, high-poverty neighborhood.”

“This proposal,” she says, “perpetuates both segregation and inequity in how Evanston serves its residents and where they can live.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

14 Comments

  1. That is a ridiculous statement by Bogg (who lives in Portage Park with an .001% black population). Bogg has to show good faith which she has not done. She earns over 150k a year as CEO of Connections. Let’s all look at the facts – the wonderful YMCA on Grove and Maple has approximately 178 men housed there (mostly of color) who are wonderful neighbors! I look forward to seeing many of them on walks and we talk daily. Evanston has a black population of approximately 17% according to the 2020 census – do what you want with that fact. So, Bogg’s inflammatory racist statements (that homeless cannot be served in Howard due to race) are just self serving, white privilege whining.

    1. Is there a petition that we can sign to help? I’d be so pissed if this were on the block that I live on.

      And yes, I’ll be the one to say it … I don’t a rehab facility on the block where my family and I live.

      Let us know what we can do to help fight this

      1. Frank,
        The best way to express yourself is to speak at the Land Use Commission meeting on 11/30 at 7PM at the Civic Center, write each member of the city council, and talk to your neighbors about how they feel.

        If you can’t make the meeting, submit your comments in writing here: https://arts.formstack.com/forms/land_use_commission_public_comment.

        Here are the email addresses for each alderperson: https://www.cityofevanston.org/government/city-council.

        You can also simply attend the meeting, and the next city council meeting on 12/11 and show your support for one side or the other.

    2. It’s striking that neither Bogg nor Craig Lynch (the CEO of YOU) live in Evanston, yet claim to know what’s best for the city and personally profit off of communities of color here.

      Maybe Bogg should offer to live next to the site as a show of good faith?

      1. When I worked for Connections and we’d have our staff meetings at the Margarita, I always thought it “out of place” that the Connections and Interfaith Action Committee’s management were always condemning critics of the Margarita – since *none* of them live even in Evanston. Especially since I *do* live on Grove, just around the corner from the Margarita. Did they ever think to ask *me* what my views on the matter were? You can “guess” the answer to that…

  2. Connections is showing who they really are. The record is pretty dense with the problems brought about by Margarita Inn residents that Connections has no interest in addressing and when there is a hint that things will not go their way, resort to calling the community racist and threatening lawsuits. They are making themselves into a permanent unwelcome guest. Time for the City Council to put and this very very bad idea.

    1. I’m struck by how many progressive leaders are adopting the bully tactics of the person they most demonize – the guy from Florida. Bogg should be ashamed of herself for plucking the chord of white guilt to tune the city to her liking. Go back to Portage Park.

  3. Wouldn’t the people who support Connections want them to make the best use of their money, considering they function fully off government funding and donations? I don’t think people who financially contribute to a homeless shelter care so much about buying a fancy building as they do their money being put to the best use possible for those in need.
    The finances behind this decision are not in Connections’ favor and certainly suggest they play fast and loose with other people’s money. Not a good look for them. Lastly, they can no longer threaten people saying the City has to choose between the Margarita or a tent city.

  4. Boggs has a lot of nerve. The people they are housing at Margarita most of them aren’t from Evanston. It’s housing those that wander here for the good services. A lot of nerve when someone is giving them another location. As an Evanston Taxpayer I think I have more say about it than her. And the Howard Street location is a mixed demographic area.

  5. None of Bogg’s bloviations about costs to her organization, etc.. should matter for the ultimate decision on whether they merit a special use permit for Margarita. The code is clear that you are not entitled to having your permit approved, so this stuff is irrelevant.

    According to the city code a special use permit should only be granted if it does not interfere with or diminish the value of property in the neighborhood, is adequately served by public services and facilities, and it will not cause a negative cumulative effect on the neighborhood.

    Absolutely nobody in the neighborhood can say with a straight face that Connections poor management hasn’t resulted in a negative cumulative effect on the neighborhood. Their own application shows how they have caused a dramatic increase in police calls to the block, thus taking resources away from other parts of town during a time when our police force is understaffed.

    It should be an easy call. Deny the permit.

    If they want to come back with another location, let them deal with it after the fact. It is important to focus on the Margarita denial as the first step.

  6. Boggs rationales are painfully weak. First, the fact Connections for the Homeless (CFH) is concerned with spending more money to attempt to be lawfully operating a homeless shelter on 1566 Oak is just selfish. They are essentially paying squatters without a legal right to their current operation. Next, they have shown they are not a good neighbor by threatening lawsuits if they don’t get their way in a trump-like deja vu. Next, they often accuse anyone who takes issue with their operations as a racist. That is insulting and inaccurate. I have witnessed men urinating on the side of my building from CFH, I’ve seen many a drunk guys staggering out front from CFH, I have been chased and verbally assaulted by a resident there. I have also donated clothes and food to people staying there.
    CFH is a massively grant funded business (1m came from Evanston) and does not get to call the shots and then threaten racism and lawsuits to get us to cower.

    And, Bogg doesn’t like that there will be another homeless shelter near the Howard street locale option. What’s the problem with that? We have several resources for housing insecure people here in the 4th ward- why is it an issue for Bogg now?

    We aren’t the bad guys here. We chose to live in Evanston and pay these high taxes for a quality of life and diversity. We give to others and talk to our neighbors. But we shouldn’t be bullied by a bad faith actor like CFH trying to gaslight Evanston into thinking the neighbors are the issue. CFH has been given options by its neighbors but doesn’t like them? What part of being a good neighbor doesn’t CFH get? They are truly a selfish outfit – not of the caliber of kindness and cooperative spirit that deserves a special use permit. Deny it Evanston. Thank you.

  7. So Betty Bogg, who does not live in Evanston (she lives 15 miles away in a very non-diverse Portage Park), is saying that Evanston is a racist community. Calling a person or a city racist is one of the most insulting things you can say.

    Her statement clinches the Margarita Inn controversy for me. At this point, any alderperson that supports Ms. Bogg and CFH is agreeing with her view of Evanston. The vote on Connections’ special use permit should be a unanimous NO.

    Further, Ms. Bogg and CFH should (1) apologize to the city, (2) withdraw the purchase offer for the Margarita Inn, and (3) be suspended from doing business with Evanston ever again.

  8. The meeting of the Land Use Commission was a sham. One of the Commissioners disclosed her longstanding personal friendship with Bogg’s attorney and should have recused herself but continued to participate and vote her support! The Chair of the Commission prepped the group to stick to the issues at hand related to zoning (negative impact on the neighborhood, lack of adequate parking, etc) yet allowed for 90 minutes of proselytizing including no less than 2 fire and brim stone preachers! Whoa! What happened to separation of Church and State? The fumbling, bumbling staff of Connections couldn’t answer direct questions about their programs and clientele. Why would we trust their numbers? Just wait, Evanston, you will regret this, bring on Albany Care 2.

  9. It funny how she loves to utilize the “Racial Card” for her defense or anyone else. This is not a racial issue. It’s apparent that the residents seem to be somewhat racially balanced. The real issue are safety concerns of the community. I have observed drug trafficking out in front of the margarita and in front of the post office. The residents of the margarita goes out to meet their drug dealers that parks out front do their drug transactions and goes back inside to get high. I’ve noticed arguments from the dealers. There are children living in this neighborhood including the school. Their has been several drug over doses at the Margarita including increased theft of packages in the neighborhood. Connections only cares of getting as much federal grants as possible utilizing it for more beds at the Margarita to housing those who are homeless giving them free place to live and food. Allowing them doing drugs and consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately they do not accept the fact they need assistance in their drug addiction including helping them in continue in their education (GED) and job placement assistance. They need to have an a written contract with their clients staying at the margarita that they must participate in drug/alcohol addiction as well as to getting their GED and resumes in obtaining employment. If they don’t participate they get kicked out. If Connections don’t wish to initiate a program that there clients are required to participate. Then yes they need to relocate on Howard The city obviously doesn’t care for the safety of our community. When you go to these meetings/hearing of the Margarita is actually a joke. Connections has majority of the time to speak while those that oppose the margarita don’t get the same time to speak. Which in my opinion has already decided in favor of the margarita just going with the flow by legally having those meetings. Perhaps those that are against the margarita should loudly express their concerns to the mayor and the ward representative that they will not receive their votes in the next elections. Possibly our community living next to the margarita should come together to provide funding to hire a lawyer(s) to represent the community. Possibly our beloved Evanston police should have a task force aimed at the drug trafficking in the neighborhood due to the residents at the margarita and making arrest

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *