The Margarita Inn, 1566 Oak Ave. (Google Maps image)

Connections for the Homeless, after two years running a shelter at the Margarita Inn, plans to buy the hotel at 1566 Oak Ave. in Evanston and continue to serve the unhoused there. 

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) announced the group’s plans at his ward meeting Tuesday night. 

“The arrangement has worked out very well,” Nieuwsma said. “At Margarita Inn, Connections has been able to help a lot of people, and it’s worked out so well they’re looking to make their activity there permanent.” 

Since March 2020, Connections has run a long-term living shelter at the Margarita as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization says the facility has especially been effective in assisting families, with the average guest residing there for roughly 90 days. 

The growing Evanston-based group says that overall it served more than 4,000 people in its various programs during the 12 months ending last June, an increase from just under 3,400 during the calendar year 2020. 

Nieuwsma said the purchase still requires city zoning approval. 

A community meeting to discuss the plans is tentatively scheduled on Sunday, March 13, at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. 

Nieuwsma sees this plan as a step in the right direction. “I really do believe that Connections for the Homeless is 100% part of the solution here in Evanston,” he said.

“The problem of homelessness is not just an Evanston or Chicago problem, but nationwide,” he added. “If we don’t do everything we can to confront this problem and give people warm and safe places to stay, we’re going to see more on the street.”

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  1. The Connections for the homeless has helped a lot of individuals that are actually trying to get back on their feet including myself. Sadly, there are a lot that are taking advantage of free rent receiving SSI spending money on drugs. In fact, a few have died of drug overdose. They congregate in front of my apartment building during the summer drinking alcohol and eating, leaving their trash.
    Sadly, those with mental health concerns are not required taking their medication. Someone had actually set a small fire inside the building. The residents at the Margarita are loud in the back of the building, including playing loud music at 2 a.m. Connections need to establish much strict rules for staying there especially an alcohol and drug free environment, no fights, no loud music, and those with mental health required taking their medication.

  2. As a neighbor of the Inn, I can attest to loud music, alcohol consumption outside the property, verbal harassment of neighbors, loud parties in the Inn’s courtyard, residents screaming at the top of their lungs as they walk down the street, and other disturbances to the neighborhood. There have been a dozen or so incidents in which police have been called to the Inn. Several female members of my family have received profane laden abuse from folks living there. It’s a nightmare.

      1. I have contacted the police on several occasions. The first responsibility, it seems, should be the operator of the facility. What is Homeless Connections’ responsibility?

  3. Police/fire department visits 2-4 times a week. Trash everywhere. Trespassing, increased drug activity, open container drinking, screaming. Yes, welcome to the neighborhood.
    I’m hearing Connections will offer us a good neighbor agreement. They should have been good neighbors from the start. Last week I took photos of the trash in front for the alderman, and it’s 10 days later, and that trash is still there. Thanks Good Neighbors.
    I had a problem with a resident that I nicknamed “Mr F@%K!” (he would walk around the block screaming about how he “didn’t give a f^&*k!”. Quite jarring to hear during a pandemic lockdown when tensions are high. I called Connections and left messages and emails, their response “we don’t know who that is and it’s not our resident”. I watch the guy enter and leave the hotel as I listen to the message.
    The burglary in the 1000 Davis block complex caught on video? Police say “yes, those people are at the hotel”, Connections’ response “those aren’t our residents”.
    Good neighbors indeed.

    And Janet, yes, we indeed have called police and Connections.

    Information on each call placed for emergency services, both ambulance and police, that have been requested for 1566 Oak St from 01/01/2020 to 11/01/2021.

    Information on each call placed for emergency services, both ambulance and police, that have been requested for 1566 Oak St from 11/02/2021 to 02/24/2022.
    ^in process

    1. Tim, we must live in the same neighborhood. We called this person “Swearing Man” over here, you could hear him all over the neighborhood at night. There was also “Barking Man,” because we couldn’t tell at first if it were a human or a dog, the sound was that harsh. And the frightening “Boulder Man,” who literally picked up small boulders outside my neighbor’s house, the ones lining the parkway, and threw them down on the pavement, eventually breaking it. And yes, Janet, we called the police, but Boulder Man was gone before we got there.

      I’ve noticed an increase in incidents in the neighborhood. Not just the trash – including a pair of socks and pajama pants which I found today – and loitering at the post office corner and rose garden. Things that have affected my house personally. We’ve had an attempted house break-in about 6 months ago (you can see the crowbar marks), a car break-in about 3 months ago, a random grungy old dude laden with bags coming up to our house and sitting down, then looking in the screened in fence, in January (I took photos since I was coming home.) And yes, Janet, we called the police, but they’re not much good after the fact.

      And before I was aware that the Margarita had turned into a homeless hotel, I saw an interesting little street scene. Last summer, I was walking down Davis, and I saw two men riding bicycles that obviously didn’t fit them, and their friend (they were talking and laughing to each other) was going down Davis testing each bike to see if it was unlocked. I heard one of them, a hippie-looking young man, say “The homeless life for me!” and high-five his two friends.

      So yeah, I’m gonna say “there goes the neighborhood.” The Margarita looks quite depressing with those faded flags. I make sure to cross the street whenever I go out, because if I glance down the street and see the shape of a dude, or especially multiple dudes, lingering outside the Margarita, I just don’t want to interact.

    2. Tim, can you provide the pdf documents that are part of this FOIA? They aren’t available on the web page that you provided a link to. They would be good for discussion at Sunday’s ward meeting. Also hope you’re going to be at the meeting.

  4. First of all there are more animal shelters than human shelters in Evanston, and North of Evanston there are zero. It says something about the community.
    That said the individual in question should never have been left walking around the block several times a day crying insanities. One freezing night I found him hanging in the entry of the building across the Margarita. He told me that he had been fired from the Margarita and had no place to sleep. Not good. The Margarita cannot flip its people with mental problems to the community. It speaks thousands about the staff at Connections at large, from the upper echelons done to the lowly untrained staff mostly handling those people directly and sending them out in the street by freezing temperatures. My take? Connections is a business. They will go to great length to source people to keep getting funded. Hilda #2 had no more than 10-20 beds mostly unoccupied. I would bet that none of the residents at the Margarita are long time residents of the North Side. When they are not sponsored by some Chicago social worker or the Cook County for that matter, homeless people land at Hilda where they are given proper credentials to become after a couple weeks city residents, on their way to the Margarita. They should be given a new license by the city but a neighborly agreement should be enforced.

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