City council approves all Margarita Inn ordinances and permits


Isaac Suarez Flint

Overflow rooms were needed for the number of community members who attended the May 22 City Council meeting in which the council voted on all ordinances and permits for the Margarita Inn, ultimately approving all of them by a vote of 6-2.

Isaac Suarez Flint, Digital content editor & In-Depth editor

After months of amendments, permit requests and careful deliberation, the Evanston City Council voted to approve all ordinances and permits for the Margarita Inn during its May 22 meeting. 

Crowds of residents in support of the Margarita Inn packed into overflow rooms as councilmembers voted on the final Special Use Permit for the Inn, ultimately determining the fate of the facility.

The Margarita Inn began serving the Evanston community in March 2020 after Governor Pritzker ordered a shelter in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly impacted those experiencing homelessness across the country. Since then, the Margarita has served as a homeless shelter for hundreds of Evanston residents experiencing housing insecurity.

Attendees celebrated the outcome of the meeting. Isaac Suarez Flint

In March 2022, the City of Evanston requested that the Margarita Inn confirm and clarify its operations, resulting in the requirement of a new Special Use Permit, as well as an operating agreement. This process involved two public hearings over the span of several months. 

During public comment sessions, Inn residents, social workers, Connections staff and community members all voiced their support for the Margarita Inn and addressed concerns surrounding resident and neighborhood safety, as well as questions posed by First Ward Council member Clare Kelly, who has consistently voted against the proposed ordinances and permits. Several concerned landlords also spoke, sharing concerns for the safety of their tenants in buildings surrounding the Inn. 

Within the last month, several lawsuits have been filed against Connections by landlords regarding the operation of the Margarita. Along with these lawsuits, ethics complaints have also been filed against Eighth Ward council member Devon Reid, who had received eviction assistance from Connections in the past. Despite the controversy surrounding Reid’s possible conflict of interest, he voted in both City Council meetings involving the Margarita. As of now, the lawsuits and ethics complaints have not affected the proceedings of the organization or City Council processes. 

Connections staff make a public comment. Isaac Suarez Flint

Nicholas Cummings, a member of Evanston’s Corporation Council, emphasized the fact that the City itself was not running the shelter, only guiding the legalities of its operations. This statement followed a long list of voiced concerns by Kelly.

“The bottom line is that we are [walking] a fine line in between an operating agreement and having the city operate the facility,” said Cummings. 

Ultimately, the council followed previous legal recommendations made by Cummings and other City of Evanston legal staff, voting 6–2 in favor of approving the Special Use Permit. The Margarita Inn now has the necessary permits to continue serving Evanston’s unhoused population. 

A video of the entire City Council meeting can be found on the City of Evanston’s website. For more information regarding the services offered at the Margarita Inn, visit the Connections for the Homeless website.