Reports of homeless people setting up housekeeping in public spaces in Evanston are increasing this summer.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said as many as a dozen people are camping out on the Evanston side of the Howard Street CTA viaduct.

A 2019 image of the viaduct area on Howard Street where homeless persons are now said to be living. Credit: Google

Evanston Now emailed City Manager Luke Stowe to ask what’s being done about the Howard viaduct situation.

The city’s interim communications manager, Jessica Mayo, responded, writing: “The City’s Health & Human Services Department has convened meetings with City staff and organized a meeting with organizations including Peer Services, Connections for the Homeless, the CTA, Chicago’s 49th Ward Alderman’s Office and the City of Chicago Department of Family Support services in order to coordinate efforts to provide necessary services for the unhoused population at this location.”

“Services being discussed and needs to be addressed range from substance abuse treatment, mental health, housing, food assistance and wrap-around services. Other activities that need to be addressed include the sanitation of the area and adequate lighting at the viaduct.”

The scene along the CTA embankment at Clark Street and Benson Avenue. Credit: Steve Lewis

Meanwhile, another homeless person’s hangout, downtown at Clark Street and Benson Avenue, has remained in place at least since early in the summer season.

Update 1:45 p.m.: Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) says he expects the homeless encampments issue to be discussed at the next meeting of the Human Services Committee at 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 7.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. What’s Connections for the homeless doing concerning this situation. They’ve received millions of federal funding

    1. Organizations like CfH have no incentive to actually solve the problem. They’ll likely continue to get funding because there’s little to no accountability in many cases. Look at California. Millions are being spent on these orgs and the problem gets worse.

      The laws are the biggest barrier to solving this problem. More often than not, the “homeless” are making the choice to live like this. Local politicians just talk and city services are hamstrung so they pass the buck. We tried the soft approach, it obviously doesn’t work.

      1. Hmmm. I’d like to see some data supporting your position that homelessness is a choice. That said, why are we allowing CFH and others to import this very difficult-to-solve from other communities to Evanston. Downtown Evanston has become treacherous. I’ll take my business to downtown Wilmette, thank you.

        1. James, I’m not sure about any data supporting the statement that many people who identify as homeless choose to be homeless, but a Google search of “homelessness as a choice” finds many interesting reads covering both sides of the argument.

          Homelessness is very complicated and caused by a variety of factors. I do recall a person posting a comment in this forum in the past who identified as homeless stating “many of us homeless are not house trained “. Also one of our council members shared that many of Connections clients who are placed in apartments unfortunately end up evicted.

          By the way, Connections operations in Evanston support all of Cook County plus additional contracts with cities outside of Cook County who don’t want this escalating crisis in their backyard.

          As a former Connections donor, I encourage current donors to dig a bit deeper to better understand Connections’ operations, measurements of success, and what a low barrier entry/housing first model really means.

  2. Connections and their operations are one of the ROOT CAUSES of this situation. Here are some examples:

    The vagrant living in the encampment at Benson and Clark committed an assault. During the arrest he told EPD that Connections “brought him here” but then determined he didn’t qualify for a room at their Inn. He is from the South side of Chicago.

    I recently found a wallet and its contents strewn around a downtown park. In gathering the wallet and contents to bring to the police department, I noted the IL drivers license had a South side Chicago address and there was also a Connections business card from a “Community Outreach Director”.

    I have spoken to a large number of people arriving via CTA with their luggage, plastic bags, and shopping carts and also to some that are either living or hanging out at entrances to one of our many vacant store fronts and the library. Many to most of them state they came to Evanston to find the Margarita Inn or because Connections or some other social services agency facilitated their trip to Evanston (e.g. providing free Ventra cards) with the promise to help them.

    So there is part of the answer to this question. Connections benefits financially by having as many clients as possible. It’s alarming how they drop the ball and have no contingencies for those that don’t “fit their program”. Case in point is someone with severe mental illness or a client that commits a wrongful act. Those they turn away or evict are the vagrants you see all over Evanston. And more and more continue to come here. The city doesn’t seem to have any plan for how to address this and from their lack of response to community concerns, it appears they really don’t care.

    Things will only worsen once Hilda’s Place at Lake Street Church (run by Connections) becomes another permanent shelter in the near future. Can a city of our size effectively manage this large regional population of people identifying as homeless? Not with our current administration and the questionable operations of Connections.

    As far as Reid expressing concerns over the encampment in his backyard on Howard, how shameful that he and other Alderpersons have not addressed this growing issue sooner. Also interesting is that the Howard Street encampment is on the Evanston side versus the Chicago side.

    That kind of sums it up, Evanston’s leadership, policies and laws, along with Connections for the Homeless, are perpetuating this fast growing crisis of vagrancy, disorder, encampments, and crime in Evanston.

    1. Mayor Daniel Biss was the one who was in favor of bringing homeless people to Evanston. We need to vote him out before he does anymore damage to Evanston. A homeless person harassed me outside of a restaurant and started to yell at me about how I should buy him a meal while I was eating in outdoor dining.

    2. The aim of the pro – Connections propaganda about “the homeless” is to make people respond emotionally, not logically…

      Once the emotional investment is made, facts that contradict the narrative are ignored…

      Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  3. We must deal with the growing homeless problem in a just and humane way BEFORE the problem is out of control. Connections needs to be audited and investigated.

  4. Unfortunately the chance that Reid, Nieusma or Biss will take any responsibility is effectively zero. No wonder Nieusma so strongly opposes recall elections.

    1. I agree completely. The situation has gotten much worse. Just yesterday, man talking on phone saying last time he is eating in to Evanston due to vagrant problem. And although I voted for Biss and Nieusma, this problem has gotten worse on their watch. As for Mr. REID, he is more concerned with truck traffic to a garden center than getting people off the streets.

  5. I agree with most of these comments. There is data supporting that California has spent $17.5 billion (that’s right not million but billion) only to have an even worse homeless situation. Google it, it’s out there on credible websites. Evanston better address this with Connections or they will have an even tougher situation on their hands.

  6. I reject the meaning of “homeless” used in this article. It is a term meant to deceive and impart pity and guilt. Let’s be honest. These city destroying people are either (1) mentally ill (schizophrenic or bipolar), (2) addicts (pick your drug – alcohol, heroin, weed, meth, crack), or (3) vagabonding grifters. Many of them are a combination of all of the above.

    Every day these people prey – directly and indirectly – on the citizens of Evanston and reduce our property values by panhandling at our stores, breaking into our homes and cars (I’ve lost count and don’t even report it to the police anymore), relieving themselves in our parks and on our sidewalks, sleeping in our library (the other day one had set up his crib in the EPL vestibule (I have a photo but can’t post it here)), they openly buy and sell drugs on our streets and in our alleys (the rear of 319 Dempster is popular), and are a human blight in our downtown.

    Who’s to blame? The ring leader here is Connections (Betty Bogg) and her council and staff enablers (Luke Stowe, Ike Ogbo and so many others), and political animals Daniel Biss and Toni Preckwinkle whose only concerns are padding their political resumes.

    The lack of attention by our city leaders to this issue is utterly astounding.

    1. If only there was some means to remove these people from society while they receive mental health care.

    2. You forgot a fourth important category: criminals. According to the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority, “ Homeless persons are often involved with the criminal justice system. One study showed 54 percent of those receiving homeless services had been incarcerated in the past. The study revealed that formerly-incarcerated, homeless individuals had an average of 19 prior arrests compared to an average of four prior arrests in a comparison group.”

      Our understaffed police force told our mayor that it could not effectively respond to the dozens of calls generated monthly by the Margarita Inn.

      But virtue signaling Biss,
      Reid (who personally benefited from a rent grant paid by Connections), and Nieuwsma (none live anywhere near the Margarita Inn) proudly turned their backs on the police, downtown businesses, two nearby preschools, neighbors willing to work on a thoughtful compromise and the overburdened fourth ward.

      Consider this in the next elections.

      And call Betty next time you’d like to discuss the blight her organization has created while it benefits from vast amounts in funding.

  7. Many incisive and excellent comments here! I formerly worked in homeless services – including here in Evanston for Connections – and we are indeed seeing the dire effects of the “Homeless – Industrial Complex” and its greedy machinations at our local level…

    Connections has absolutely *no* interest in “ending homelessness” – they receive millions in funding for actually *perpetuating* the homeless problem… and with the full blessing of our “woke” Evanston city government…

    I was one of a group of concerned Margarita Inn neighbors who tried in vain to “speak truth to power”… for backup we had the facts, statistics, and excellent testimony from dozens of Evanston citizens and leading experts in the homeless services field. We spent much time crafting a reasonable alternative “Good Neighbor Agreement” for the Margarita Inn – for this we were branded “racists, NIMBY’s, haters… engaging in publicity stunts…”

    Until the current lot of Evanston city officials who kowtow to Connection’s every whim are voted out, this situation will only worsen…

    There are two upcoming lawsuits regarding the Margarita Inn, and hopefully “justice will be served” concerning the Margarita fiasco…

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

    1. YES. Evanston needs to help its own. The neighborhood ppl want the shelter to help EVANSTON people, especially families and D65 students. But Connections would rather keep raking in federal money with “low barrier” clients (addicts criminals etc). We’re afraid that Connections passes over Evanston families in favor of whoever will get them money.

      They won’t make it sober housing with no drugs or alcohol. It’s no place for children, and it makes me so mad. And you’re right, housing IS unaffordable here.

  8. Evanston is going downhill very fast. Someone, obviously homeless person took a dump on sidewalk TWICE on Sherman ave and the city isn’t doing a thing about it. I see trash flying around everywhere in streets of downtown and even in the lake front. I do not feel safe or pleasant anymore to walk around. Every single of friends and neighbors I spoke to feel the same and more than half of them are thinking of moving out of Evanston. Some already moved out of Evanston. We are counting our days as well to be out of here. Good luck Evanston with its hopeless mayor Biss who looks like a knockoff version of Newsom.

  9. Jonathan Nieuwsma,, May 25 2023:

    “Part of the solution is putting people in a building, and giving people a roof over their head and a bed to stay in, three meals a day. This is exactly what Connections is doing at Margarita Inn,” he said. “If we don’t do it here, where are we going to do it? If we don’t do Margarita Inn, we’re going to have more people on the street, we’re going to have a tent city coming to a park near you.”

    How did that work out, Alderman? Real nice work.

  10. I am asking everyone who is fed up with the management of the encampments and other quality of life problems that have plagued our city to reach out to our elected officials and to our city manager. Maybe I am naive, but I don’t know how else to get our point across. We need to put pressure on them and keep it there. Keep at it, one email is not enough, email everyday if you have the energy.

    I have included the email address of our Mayor, City Manager and the House Representative ( she has Facebook, twitter,etc)

  11. So no one wants to speak on the redlining, housing discrimination, and UNAFFORDABLE Housing that plagues Evanston right? Well I am one to say all this is still pretty prevelant in Evanston also causing displacement. Not necessarily the case for the people causing a problem, but there is a big % of homeless and displaced children attending District 65 that directly benefit from Connections for the Homeless as well as other services for people. Yes, something needs to be done about homeless people living unpleasently in Evanston and EVERY other major city in the U.S. but humanely after all these are People.

    1. Helping displaced Evanstonians, especially children, was the koolaid sold to our city leadership. I’m glad some are being helped, but homeless are being imported from elsewhere.

    2. Dominique, I applaud your sympathy but point out the issue with Connections is that they convinced the city leadership into thinking this was for Evanstonians. Not true as we are now discovering en masse. Evanston is shouldering the burden of the homeless of northern Illinois.

      Plus, housing homeless children with drug addicts or mentally ill people is not a good plan at all. Is THAT humane treatment for a child? If there really are hundreds of homeless children living in Evanston, why are they not getting preferential treatment for Margarita housing?

      Plus, putting people who are drug addicted or mentally ill (many with severe mental illness) in downtown Evanston runs counter to any kind of revitalization effort of the downtown area. This depletes the city tax revenues which are partially used to fund homeless mitigation efforts. It’s not a simple problem but one which has been sold as one of simply providing shelter.

      The so-called “Housing First” strategy is just attracting more and more homeless to Evanston. This will force the city to spend tax revenues on buying more housing for them. Do you see the problem here? It’s a lack of planning, at the very least.

  12. Evanston = Portland = San Francisco = Austin = New Orleans = Los Angeles….what do these cities all have in common? We left Evanston in 2019. Thank God.

  13. There are a lot of great comments here. So how do we get rid of Reid and his mentor Biss? Need we to start earlier rather than later.

  14. No one wants to speak on red lining and lack of affordable housing because they both have little, if anything to do with the main theme of this article and most of the comments posted. Evanston should help Evanston residents who become homeless, families, individuals, anyone experiencing homelessness, whatever the reason. The problem is the vast scope of what Connections claims to be solving is too much for the city of Evanston and our current administration to handle. Just this morning I saw three newcomers to our city, one sleeping on Sherman on a planter, one sitting in fountain Square with loads of bags and a shopping cart, and another walking down Sherman, in a very staggering way yelling at the sky. The north side of Church between Orrington and Sherman has become another skid row, often frequented by vagrants drinking alcohol, urinating in public and harassing passersby. The inaction by our city elected officials and city staff is going to end in our demise as a most livable city.

  15. Connections’ business model inflicts harm on Evanston. These people are not local and come here expecting an easier life without changing antisocial habits.

    My freedom to leave home has been limited by homeless camped in my building’s outer lobby and on the sidewalk against our front door. I honestly don’t know what to do. Are we supposed to step over people? Wake them up so they stop blocking the door to the sidewalk? Call the police so they will be moved next door? And moved on again the next night? When it’s winter, will they freeze if I call the police? But if they aren’t shooed away by police, will they come back in greater numbers?

    Are they LITERALLY on the doorsteps of our mayor or council members? Seems not.

  16. Do NOT try to wake a sleeping vagrant or otherwise engage with them. Despite what many “caring” Evanstonians might think, these vagrants are not harmless nor innocent. To the contrary, many have criminal records and are here to cause harm and disorder. I unfortunately learned first hand they can be violent and are often suffering from mental illness.

    Stay away from them, don’t give them anything, and call the police if you feel unsafe or threatened. That’s not being unkind, it’s being smart and safe.

  17. Here is another point of view. The border towns are experiencing the same kinds of things because of Biden’s policies. People living in comfortable communities don’t really understand the seriousness of that problem. But as is so historically typical when people personally experience these problems than there is an outcry. Look at Martha’s Vineyard. Now its happening to Evanston. Yes the problem of homelessness is very complicated and most of the comments here are right on. But this issue can be debated for the next 100 years. The only thing I know for sure is a quote from a movie: “if you build it they will come”

  18. I would love to know how many of the individuals in these encampments are Evanston’s homeless vs those who were imported.

  19. So residents have to wait until August 7th for this to be addressed? Thanks for nothing Evanston. They are disturbing the peace and blocking a right of way. LOCK THEM UP!

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *