Evanston’s Human Services Committee is scheduled Tuesday to consider an ordinance that would create a licensing scheme for long-term shelters for the homeless like the Margarita Inn.

The ordinance would modify existing regulations for temporary homeless shelters to include a new category of long-term shelters.

Uncertainty about how the use by Connections for the Homeless of the Margarita Inn as a long-term shelter fit within existing city regulations has clouded the path for determining whether the use — funded by the city as an emergency measure during the pandemic — can continue.

The ordinance would remove restrictions that limit shelters to operating only 12 hours per day and cap their occupancy at 20 persons. But it adds a new provision that shelters have enough space to comply with occupancy requirements of the International Property Maintenance Code.

It also would revise staffing requirements to establish a ratio of one staff person on duty and awake during operating hours per 15 residents, rather than specifying that two staff members be present regardless of the shelter’s size.

The ordinance would relax a current ban on providing health care services at a shelter, but would specify that the shelter may not operate as a hospital.

The ordinance would also clarify that the long-term shelter category is distinct from other potentially similar zoning uses including a rooming house — the special use category under which Connections for the Homeless had been seeking to continue its operation at the Margarita Inn.

A long-term homeless shelter license would require an annual fee of $500 and annual inspections by the city.

Fines for violating provisions of the ordinance would range from $125 to $750.

A shelter would also require special use approval by the City Council.

Connections, which has been leasing the Margarita Inn from its private owner, has sought to purchase the building, but the sale has been stalled by uncertainty about the legality of its continuing use as a shelter.

A number of neighbors have complained about what they describe as disruptive behavior by shelter residents.


Update 1:30 p.m. July 5: The city announced Tuesday afternoon that the Human Services Committee meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. has been canceled. The next meeting of the committee is now scheduled for Aug. 1.


Update 6:30 p.m. July 6: The Human Services Committee meeting now has been rescheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 13.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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