Evanston’s City Council is scheduled to take an initial vote Monday on a special use permit request for the Connections for the Homeless shelter at the Margarita Inn.

Update 7:15 p.m. 2/10/23: A circuit court judge has barred the Council from discussing the special use permit Monday. Full story.

The council is also scheduled to review a total rewrite of the city’s lodging establishments ordinance restructuring it to cover licensing for all forms of “shared housing” — including shelters like the Margarita Inn.

The votes come as Evanston Now has learned that Evanston, with 7% of northern Cook County’s population of more than 1.1 million people, has 31% of the homeless shelter beds in the region.

The Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County reports that, as of last year’s housing inventory count, there were 502 shelter beds in the region.

Evanston’s shelter beds include 70 at the Margarita Inn, 66 for domestic violence victims at the YWCA, and 20 seasonal shelter beds at local churches provided by Interfaith Action.

The Margarita Inn, 1566 Oak Ave.

A spokesperson for the Alliance did not respond to an Evanston Now email asking for details about the distribution of shelter beds among other Northern Cook communities.

A previous Evanston Now report compared Evanston’s homeless shelter capacity with that of the City of Chicago and all of suburban Cook County.

In a message this week, Mayor Daniel Biss suggested that Evanston’s strong mass transit access and the presence here “of an elite university” will “inevitably make Evanston a more welcoming place for people living on the economic margin” than other north suburban communities.

In that statement the mayor said he favors approving continued operation of the Margarita Inn as a homeless shelter, but did not indicate whether he also favors an expected request from Connections reopen its currently shuttered emergency shelter at Hilda’s Place and double that shelter’s capacity.

The proposed special use permit ordinance contains 19 proposed conditions on the operation of the shelter and the Council could choose to add additional conditions.

Some neighbors of the Margarita Inn property at 1566 Oak Ave. have strongly opposed continued operation of the shelter, claiming it has added to panhandling and vagrancy issues around the downtown area rather than ameliorating them.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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