Evanston-based nonprofit Connections for the Homeless began housing people in the Margarita Inn at 1566 Oak Ave. during the pandemic and is now pursuing a permit to make the hotel a permanent shelter.
Last month, more than 200 people attended a meeting to discuss the future of the Margarita Inn. While some community members stood in support of the nonprofit’s plans, many neighbors expressed concerns, particularly regarding local safety.
At a Housing and Community Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, the nonprofit’s executive director, Betty Bogg, discussed what she said were misconceptions about Connections for the Homeless and its facility in the Margarita Inn.
Bogg said that community members have claimed that a lack of oversight in the Margarita Inn has led to a huge increase in crime and that the facility does not provide comprehensive “wraparound” services.
On the contrary, she said Connections for the Homeless tracks all incidents that happen in the facility, and since Jan. 1, 2022, the nonprofit’s records show only two incidents that required a police response.
The first incident involved a misunderstanding between roommates that was resolved peacefully and without any charges filed, Bogg said.
The second incident involved someone who did not live at the Margarita Inn but refused to leave the property, Bogg said.
She added that many of the police patrols through the area are not a response to a service call.
Connections for the Homeless meets biweekly with city staff, including police officers, to discuss any topics pertaining to the nonprofit’s work, she said.
“Officers have not brought any incidents related to the Margarita residents to my attention since May of 2021,” said Bogg, later addressing claims that the facility lacks enough services.
She said the facility offers rich case management, led by licensed staff, trained residential workers and partnerships with community providers.
On-site licensed nursing staff provide physical and mental health care and onsite mental health professionals provide individual and group therapy, she said.
“We have substance use disorder support, employment counseling and many additional supportive services,” Bogg said.
Bogg said she’s happy to discuss the nonprofit’s work with any community member.
“Our top priority is the safety and wellbeing of our entire community, including our participants and staff,” she said.