Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma told residents at a 4th Ward meeting Tuesday night he expects a “good neighbor agreement” for the Margarita Inn homeless shelter to be drafted by mid-November.
Nieuwsma said representatives of several groups — homeowners, condo owners, renters and the faith community — were chosen at a meeting Sunday to participate in developing the agreement.
He said representatives of other groups — including downtown merchants and property owners and the shelter operator, Connections for the Homeless — will be selected shortly.
Operation of the former hotel as a shelter — begun during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic — has drawn strong opposition from some neighbors of the building at 1566 Oak Ave.
Nieuwsma said he expects the good neighbor agreement will be ready in advance of a scheduled Nov. 30 Land Use Commission hearing on Connections’ special use request to continue to operate the building as a rooming house.
He said the good neighbor agreement should “establish mutual expectations” between the homeless agency and the neighbors.
Connections’ director of development, Nia Tavoularis, said that because the Margarita is primarily funded by Cook County it can’t restrict its clientele only to Evanston residents.
But she said that about 86% of the residents at the shelter are connected to Evanston — that they either live or work or have family in the community.
Tavoularis added that the Margarita is not an emergency shelter — where someone could just show up and be admitted for the night.
Instead, she said, potential residents are first screened at one of the organization’s two drop-in shelters, at Lake Street Church downtown and at 2121 Dewey Ave. in the 5th Ward.
“They would get added to the Margarita when space becomes available — which could be several weeks,” Tavoularis said, “and they then can stay for an indefinite period of time until they find permanent housing.”
Nieuwsma said the city plans to regulate operation of the shelter through the special use zoning permit and through a licensing ordinance that has yet to be drafted.
The good neighbor agreement, he said, would not be enforceable by the city.
Approval of the special use permit ultimately will be up to the City Council.
The special use request documents and related materials are available on the Connections website.