Evanston debates hotel-turned-homeless shelter

Some neighbors say shelter residents have caused problems

Homeless Executive Director Betty Bogg and 1566 Oak Avenue in Evanston (Facebook, Google Maps)
Homeless Executive Director Betty Bogg and 1566 Oak Avenue in Evanston (Facebook, Google Maps)

Residents and city officials in the college suburb of Evanston are trying to decide the future of a hotel-turned-homeless shelter.

The then-vacant Margarita Hotel at 1566 Oak Avenue was repurposed at the start of the pandemic, the Evanston Review reported. Now its operator, Evanston-based nonprofit Connections for the Homeless, plans to hold at least a dozen meetings where those who live within a half-mile of the building can voice their concerns.

While the shelter has supporters, some residents say people who stay there have been causing problems, including an increase in crime. Police who attended a Human Services Committee meeting in July said they’ve been called to the shelter on multiple occasions and once arrested a resident, who was removed and not allowed to return.

Connections Executive Director Betty Bogg said many shelter residents who have gone through trauma and violence seek it out for support to find a permanent home. “The Margarita gives people a chance to catch their breath and organize their lives in a supportive environment and eventually move to a stable living arrangement,” she told the outlet.

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The group’s main goal is to buy the building. Its owner has more than $400,000 in unpaid taxes on it and needs to sell.

John Cleave, 61, who lives three buildings away, told the publication that shelter residents loiter on the streets. Cleave also said some more serious incidents occurred, although he wasn’t comfortable going into detail.

“We would like to see less problems,” Cleave told the outlet. “We want to make sure security is there and that the organization is doing its job: finding residents permanent housing.”

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