The owner of the apartment building just north of the Margarita Inn homeless shelter has filed suit in circuit court claiming the shelter constitutes a public and private nuisance and asking the court to issue an injunction halting its operation.

The suit claims the unlicensed shelter has caused the building next door at 1570 Oak Ave. to lose tenants, income and overall value.

It further claims that the shelter has damaged the surrounding neighborhood, “causing an increase in criminal activity, police and emergency services involvement and overwhelming panhandling and loitering, changing the area into an unsafe and unwelcoming environment.”

The suit claims the city has received hundreds of complaints from residents — including persons living in the Oak Ridge apartment building at 1570 Oak — but that the city has failed and refused to enforce any of its nuisance ordinance provisions.

The suit lists numerous police reports of criminal activity at the shelter.

The suit also claims that the Margarita’s owner, Michael Pure, sent a message to Oak Ridge owner Lawrence Starkman saying shelter operator Connections for the Homeless has agreed to pay $8 million for the Margarita, about three times the assessed value of the property.

The suit has been scheduled for a hearing before Judge Anna Helen Demacopoulos on Aug. 22.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I would not want to live in that building. I feel badly for the people who moved into a nice building and then found themselves locked into leases next to that. I also understand they break into the other buildings and use the laundry room as a toilet. No one is incriminating them but this is standard untreated mental illness. It should be the priority of Connections to get people help and treatment so these thinfs dont happen.

  2. As a Margarita “neighbor” (within 500 feet) and a former Connections employee, this is most welcome news. The included police reports are very, *very* real – and very *damning*; no amount of denial or obfuscation by Connections can “explain away” the horror show that is the Margarita Inn. This shines a harsh light on the squalid doings of Connections – and hopefully Connection’s “management” of the Margarita Inn will soon be relegated to “the dustbin of history”. Connections will have a most difficult time concocting one of their “PR stunts” to counter this…

    Hopefully, we will finally “get our neighborhood back” – and no more outsiders will degrade the area with their failed “social work experiments”…

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

    1. Yes, and I believe that if they are able to get their special use permit and buy the building that it will only get worse. This is them on their good behavior. How much mental health care could they fund with the overpayment of a building?

      1. Having worked out of the Margarita when I was a Connections employee, I can *assure* you that Connections is not the *least* bit interested in improving the health, welfare, and safety of their homeless shelter guests…

        It’s very, very cruel, and it was *the* major reason I left their employ (I gave an on – the – spot notice, I was *that* fed – up). It is disgusting that they are cynically using these vulnerable people to play their “numbers game” in order to access more and more and more funding…

        Ideally, IMO Margarita management – starting at the top with Betty Bogg – should be up for criminal charges of negligence – what I saw there was truly heartbreaking… the police reports included in the suit are only the “tip of the iceberg”, much bad stuff is simply unreported…

        Stray pets are treated better than the way Connections treats their Margarita homeless residents…

        Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

        1. I do agree with this they treat homeless people like an inmate in prison. I beg them for help and they just keep shutting telling me they don’t have funding and I know they do I’m safe where I live I’m beaten almost everyday and only domestic violence Shelter I can get into is in Bloomington and Pacific garden I live in fear and have no where to I’m 1 week from signing my lease and I’m just praying to God to help me

  3. Bravo!

    Stop the insanity!

    PS: Think very hard as to why the remarks and warnings of former Evanston Chief of Police, a decorated longtime leader – were summarily ignored, with impunity, by the current Mayor and Alder Devon Reid and many alders.

    Addicts do not get better when using is condoned and enabled, which is the policy of Connections – which is what I have read is their policy – on Evanston Now.

    Believe me, I’ve been an Al-Anon parent for over 15 years – recovery is hard and allusive and precious if accomplished – but it is a rarety.

    Still the very best of half-way houses – which Connections in no way is – do not belong in that neighborhood.

    The answer is probably all one needs to know about Evanston since the last election.

    Massively, massively, massively – one cannot emphasize enough – off course.

    Evanston, after decades as a unique place on this Globe – my home for 53 years, is now…
    ….. on the wrong course.

  4. Whatever happens on Oak, I believe that Connections for the Homeless has set its plans on expanding in Evanston. Hilda’s Place is going to double in size at the very least and through Connections working discretely throuhh Interfaith, they have access to every Interfaith operated religious building to open new shelters. They make a lot ot money working in Evanston, so I’m not sure that this will be a victory. Additionally, who is to say that the Mayor and alderman will not force this through using special legislation?

    1. Yeah. If people think this is just a 4th ward issue, that’s pretty short sighted. CFH has said they want assets, and, once successful, they probably won’t want to stop at one. I’m just curious if they’re powerful enough to go up against the richer wards. Harley Clark could be a nice second location for them. Maybe as a job training, substance rehab, or life skills center.

  5. Next time you get a street cleaning parking ticket, or obtain a permit to install a new fence, remember that the city of Evanston is happily allowing Connections to operate an UNLICENSED shelter and refuses to enforce its own nuisance ordinances, despite multiple arrests for criminal activity and hundreds of complaints to the police regarding what goes on at the Margarita Inn. Taxpaying residents have to follow the rules, but if you’re a “non-profit” spending millions of dollars to replace a hotel (that once generated tax revenue and visitors) with a poorly-managed shelter, Mayor Biss and most of the city council don’t care if you literally break the law.

  6. I have a theory about what is behind this. Some local politicians may be enabling an effort to lower property values and drive residents out so properties in formerly good areas can be bought up cheaply by a few investors. Once this is accomplished, they will quickly get rid of the mental cases and addicts, gentrify the area again, and make a lot of money doing so. Why else could Connections offer to pay a lot more than the Margarita Inn is worth? Who is paying Alderman Reid’s back rent? Why are a few politicians refusing to even listen to the neighbors’ objections to turning Evanston into a bum’s paradise? Legalizing topless beaches, letting people camp and party all night in the parks, legalizing rock throwing and carrying burglar tools, legalizing Marijuana lounges and sales, demanding the city fund more reparation payments, more low-barrier, unsupervised homeless shelters enabling guys with criminal records, addictions and mental illness to remain crminals and addicts…the list of bad ideas goes on and on. I see no action being taken on swarms of panhandlers scaring customers away from local businesses. No action being taken on more assaults and public indecency, or trashing our neighborhoods. This is insane. It will drive people out…just what the would-be developers want so they can buy up more prime property cheaply. Developers wanting to put up more cramped high rises with limited parking are further degrading the area. That Connections won’t allow the police to get involved when their residents act up means they’re above the law? Why are we letting this happen?

    I bought a place in Evanston because I thought it was a beautiful, civilized place with many urban and cultural amenities that was safe and walkable. I’m not walking or biking any more in Evanston because I don’t want to be assaulted, robbed, or harassed by panhandlers. I’m reluctant to park on the street overnight because I don’t want my catalytic converter stolen. I drive elsewhere to shop and eat out now. It’s a sad state of affairs.

    I feel a sense of loss for what Evanston used to be…a safe, beautiful and cultured oasis. I want it back!

  7. Hey Mayor Biss- You say that allowing Connection’s shelter to operate is an “Evanston value”. No, emphatically no!

    What organization practices “Evanston values”? Well I would suggest you don’t have to look far: it’s the YMCA, right around the corner, operating a home for men who are just a step from homelessness. Do they allow drug use and mayhem from their residents? No! They operate so successfully that little kids can come and go to their swim lessons and whatnot – RIGHT IN THE SAME BUILDING, WITH NO PROBLEMS!

    McGaw Y, not Connections, practices Evanston values!!

  8. “Unpermitted and unlicensed use” is the vital part that I cannot believe they have been allowed to walk past. And they needed this first, well before they open.

    There is no other business where this would be allowed. A coffee shop would not be allowed to serve coffee, a doctor would not be allowed to see patients, a pizza place could not turn on the ovens, a movie theater could not sell tickets, a lawn care service could not mow, a grocer could not sell fruit, realtors could not show properties, interior designers could not select fabrics, bakeries could not frost cakes, all these things could not happen, would not be allowed to even begin, without following the law with necessary permits and licenses.

  9. Time to force a special election, also known as a recall. Unfortunately, those who would likely lose are the ones who would have to put through an ordinance allowing this. Nieusma has already said he’s too busy. Gee, I wonder why.

  10. If the hearing isn’t until August 22, how does that timing affect the situation?

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