Connections for the Homeless neared the finish line Monday night in its effort to win city approval to continue to operate its shelter at the Margarita Inn.

Evanston City Council members voted 6-2 to introduce the special use permit ordinance required for the shelter’s operation and appeared to be on track to give the proposal final approval at their next meeting on May 22.

During an extended public comment session, supporters of the organization, many wearing blue “We Are All Inn” T-shirts, outnumbered opponents roughly five to one.

The supporters included many of the group’s board members and other housing activists, but also some immediate neighbors of the building at 1566 Oak Ave.

Opponents have argued that Connections’ “housing first” or “low barrier” shelter model encourages continued drug and alcohol abuse and does not well serve its clients.

But Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma, whose 4th Ward includes the Margarita, said Connections is part of the solution to homelessness.

If Evanston doesn’t have the shelter, he added, “We’ll have a tent city coming to a park near you.”

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) argued for imposing additional restrictions on the shelter’s operation, but Nieuwsma said the latest draft of the proposed operating agreement — scheduled to be reviewed by the Council at its May 22 meeting — addresses the concerns she raised.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th), who said she has made contributions to Connections, said the operation at the Margarita has had “growing pains.” But she said Connections has substantially improved its performance and its relations with the police department.

“We’ve learned a lot over the past three years,” since the organization started housing the homeless in hotels at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Revelle added.

Although he did not offer any explanation for his vote, Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) joined Kelly in voting against the special use request. Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) was not present for the vote.

The special use ordinance will be on the Council agenda for a final approval vote on May 22.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I don’t think many are against them operating there, I feel that many just want them to do a better job and rework the “Good Neighbor Agreement” w/ stricter guidelines.

    I think that’s really what this all comes down to.

    Also, stop lying to us too. That’s another big one.

  2. Quoting from article, “Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma, whose 4th Ward includes the Margarita, said Connections is part of the solution to homelessness.”—-Note to Ald. Nieuwsma, please articulate in exact detail as to the solutions Margarita has provided to date since taking over management of the building as a shelter, and what exactly is involved in solving rest of the solution?——please also explain are we talking Evanston residents who’ve unfortunately become homeless, or just anyone passing through?—-perhaps the next homeless shelters will be next door to you or Mayor Biss?—-be very interesting to see how that flies

    In addition article quotes Nieuwsma “If Evanston doesn’t have the shelter, he added, “We’ll have a tent city coming to a park near you.”
    Ald. Nieuwsma—-this comment begs for an explanation—-are you insinuating if the Margarita-Connections plan fails, then the city would be dealing with homeless people setting up tents in our public parks?—-It just so happens city parks close at 11:00pm and a myriad of other existing laws would be broken if anyone attempted to set up camp in public parks—-our police department would have no choice but enforce existing law in stopping city parks from ever becoming camp grounds—-why are you even making such a ludicrous comment?

    The summer months are coming—-as the temperatures rise so will all the violent and illegal activities from the Margarita—-rest assured we NIMBY’s here in the 4th ward will be documenting it as we’re forced to protect ourselves and family all the while our property values tumble—-thank you very much city council and “all inners”—-and I’d be remiss if falling a big shout out to Ald. Devon Reid for his usual ignorant contributions to city and this plan, all the while Connections ponied up his past due rent and eviction notice to keep him from having to reside in The Margarita—-what kind of Banana Republic of a city even allows for such open corruption?—-and must be noted to you electric leaf blowers out there, Ald Reid has a name for you, “white folks who live on the north side of our town”—unreal—-how did we ever even get here?—-fellow citizens, start paying better attention to who your voting for

    1. Amen

      Evanston leadership is massively out of touch
      Inexperience, hubris, and virtue signaling is not what makes for a thriving town.

  3. The Connections defensive is that the homeless are black and poor. The racial card is overplayed. It doesn’t matter if someone is black, white, hispanic or poor. We all understand there’s a problem with the homeless population. Yet, when nothing the city and Connections close their eyes to the real problem of not providing constructive programs that are mandatory for participation in order to staying there in reestablishing their self-esteem with core values in battling their drug/alcohol addiction, getting a GED, learning how to prepare themselves with job resumes and job interviews in order to living a constructive life. The city and Connections need to accept this responsibility and be held accountable for their clients actions roaming the neighborhood and downtown Evanston. I’m so tired of walking to Target and Jewel-Osco listening this well known phrase ” HELP me I’m homeless.” Which is another way of saying “Help me I’m Lazy and don’t wish to work”. If someone is not willing to help themselves I’m not going to contribute to their laziness and drug/alcohol addiction. What’s really sad is when they harassing the minors for their allowance. Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma, whose 4th Ward includes the Margarita, said Connections is part of the solution to homelessness. If Evanston doesn’t have the shelter, he added “We’ll have a tent city coming to a park near you. ” Really. Hilda’s Place clients have already utilizes Raymond Park, across the street. Taking over the park benches with garbage bags. Not to mention Alexander Park Ridge/Grove including the park across from Einstein Bagels. Not to mention the bus shelter S.E. corner Ridge and Church just to mention a few. With the warmer weather the neighborhood around the Margarita and Hilda’s Place is going to become worse. Especially, downtown Evanston. Let’s not forget that the city Evanston has received Federal funding to operate a homeless shelter. Hopefully they will place that shelter in the neighborhoods of city council and the Mayor. Evanston is slowly and gradually becoming part if Rodgers Park and Uptown. The city and Connections are required to also protect the local community from adding unnecessary panhandling and addresses the issues of drug/alcohol consumption. It doesn’t matter whether someone is black, white or poor. Sadly both the City and Connections are concerned of receiving those federal funding. Naturally city council had to approve the permit for Connections utilizing the Margarita. So the city wouldn’t lose their federal funding

  4. I wish we could identify where the All Inn shirt wearers are actually from. Around Evanston, I have only seen a handful of yard signs, and they are far away from the Inn. I’m 200 feet away not 2 miles.

    If I lived across town I’d certainly feel less disappointed by this.

    In a few years, I predict things will not be going well in the area, Connections will not have accomplished anything concrete and will **own the building**, and my property will not have recouped lost value. The Council and town leadership will at best shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, what can we do?” and move on to other issues.

  5. On my opinion the issue of Connections having a special permit for the Margarita as a homeless shelter should not be decided by city council but rather the city of Evanston should be required for the citizens of Evanston in making a final decision to approve or not approve the Margarita as a homeless shelter by having a special elections to vote on this matter.

  6. Using a tantrum about being bullied by monied interests as a shiny penny, Alderperson Reid didn’t bother to ask the law department if taking money from Connections would constitute a conflict of interest and need to recuse himself from voting for the special permit. Unforced error–Connections had the votes. Says volumes about Reid.

  7. Devon Reid voting in favor of the organization that paid his rent. Have to laugh or I’m going to cry. Evanston is in bad shape.

  8. Delighted to hear the council’s decision to support Connections with the Margarita Inn. As pastor of a local congregation in walking distance to the Inn, we are ready to partner and collaborate with Connections to assist the residents in becoming self-sufficient, employed and with resources to that will be helpful and productive. Evanston has done well, and right with this decision.

    Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors
    Second Baptist Church
    Evanston/North Shore NAACP

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