The executive director of Connections for the Homeless says the Evanston-based non-profit agency is in the midst of reassessing its funding options after a wave of growth triggered by the pandemic.

“It’s always been our intention to replace at least some of the federal money with private dollars,” Betty Bogg tells Evanston Now. “We’ve done fundraising throughout the years, and now we have to expand our capacity to raise private funds.”

From annual spending of just $4.8 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, the agency grew to have $14.5 million in expenses for its fiscal year that ended in June 2022.

The pandemic made the previous model of providing congregate, overnight-only shelter a health risk, and led to its replacement with longer-term shelter solutions in which the sheltered have private rooms.

Connections reports that of its $14.5 million 2022 budget, $8.7 million went to support Evanston residents. (The rest was spread across more than 50 other north suburban communities.)

It received about $1.1 million from the City of Evanston that year, almost all of it pass-through of federal aid dollars received by the city. It also received about $1.5 million from Evanston-based families and foundations. The rest, nearly $6.1 million, came federal, state and county grants and non-Evanston based donors.

Bogg says that while much federal funding has dried up, Cook County is continuing to fund operating costs for the Margarita Inn shelter in Evanston as well as some of the cost for the drop in center on Dewey Avenue.

And Bogg says she feels “pretty confident” that the county will take on the cost of purchasing the Margarita for the agency from its private owner.

The agency’s next big capital project is renovation of Hilda’s Place, the former overnight congregate shelter in the basement of Lake Street Church.

Late last year U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) announced a $2 million federal grant that’s anticipated to cover about half the cost of that project.

But Bogg says the agency is still negotiating with the city over the potential design and capacity of that space.

“It’s quite a large space, but a bit of a maze, in the oldest public building in the city,” Bogg says.

“If we could go in and gut it, we might get 40 to 60 beds in there,” she added, “but the tricky part is that the city’s zoning code for transitional shelters only allows 30.”

Bogg spoke at Monday’s Human Services Committee meeting in support of a proposal from Ald. Devon Reid (8th) that would give her agency a one-time grant of $1.25 million from the city’s general fund reserves.

But she says she doesn’t “just count on Evanston to fill” the agency’s budget gap on an ongoing basis.

Reid’s proposal advanced, but amid major questions from other council members about its size, structure and impact.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. 1) a detailed accounting proving that $8.7 million was spent on Evanston residents.

    2) the Connection’s definition of who is an Evanston resident.

    3) the number of crimes committed annually by Connections clients defined as those with an Illinois ID with 2121 Dewey as their address, those living at Margarita Inn (an unlicensed homeless shelter), those receiving services from Hilda’s Place, and those whose presence in Evanston is directly tied to Connections.

    4) the total number of individuals Connections has failed in helping (e.g. evicted from Margarita Inn for bad behavior, crime, refusal of services, severe mental illness, etc.).

    5) the total number of individuals who are currently housed at Margarita Inn that have been there since it began operating as an unlicensed homeless shelter.

  2. Interesting comments being made by Betty Bogg here. It’s pretty obvious that Connections practices very poor fiscal planning, unless you count Betty’s statement that it was our “intention” to replace millions of federal dollars with private donations, apparently every year.
    And the “pretty confident” statement that Cook County will pay the way above market rate purchase price for the Margarita Inn further illuminates poor fiscal planning. Not to mention the overspending of our tax dollars by the county commissioners. Those kind of statements also likely means there is no real capital budget to upkeep the physical properties condition or have guaranteed, continued resource streams to properly operate the facility going forward.

    Time to email Josina Morita, our elected County representative and ask why she is willingly taking OUR taxpayer money to greatly overpay for a property while continuing open ended taxpayer spending on an organization without any real financial planning for the future or demanding hard metric results related to said organizations operation. And our council people will likely give more millions to a group with no better future planning beyond statements of feeling “pretty confident”

  3. From the article:

    “And Bogg says she feels “pretty confident” that the county will take on the cost of purchasing the Margarita for the agency from its private owner…”

    *If* the sale can even proceed – there are two upcoming lawsuits concerning the legality of the Margarita Inn staying open, so “stay tuned”…!!!

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  4. Maybe Connections should not have speny $25k on their block party so they can actually pay their bills.

  5. Betty/Connections are harming civil society in Evanston by turning us into a vagrant destination for bad actors from all over Chicagoland. Connections makes money by recruiting grifters or “butts in beds” to our fair city. Connections does nothing to “rehabilitate” people who have become accustomed to years of free health care, clothing, laundry services, transportation, social work, food, housekeeping.

    Connections reaped huge rewards as part of the billions lost on the Social Services Industrial Complex giveaways during Covid. It is in Connections’ beat interests to keep people dependent on them.

    With the money, this organization brings an endless stream of non-Evanston vagrants to terrorize our daily lives especially downtown and in the 4th Ward.

    Good to hear that Bobby Burns and others are becoming wise to Connections’ motives and abuse of our city.

    Ask vagrants why they are here and they will tell you that Connections motivated them to come. We cannot manage this endless influx of evil doers.

    Just yesterday, one of the new vagrants stolen merchandise at Pete’s in the morning and at whole foods at night. He is recorded on camera.

    The situation has gone beyond repair. Businesses are gone and new ones are avoiding Evanston due to the woke wage control considerations about Devon Reid. We are willing to sell our house near Connections for four times assessed value.

    Andersonville and Wilmette have gotten all of our shopping and dining dollars for the past few years.

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