Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Connections for the Homeless celebrates purchase of Margarita Inn in open house

Sarah Serota/The Daily Northwestern
Connections for the Homeless transformed the former hotel, the Margarita Inn, into a permanent shelter.

Community members, residents and staff celebrated Connections for the Homeless’ recent purchase of the Margarita Inn with an open house at the facility on Tuesday. 

Connections has operated the former hotel since 2020 as a homeless shelter and officially purchased the building in November 2023. The inn currently accommodates approximately 60 unhoused individuals at 1566 Oak Ave. 

During the event, attendees toured six different rooms in the inn: a sample resident room, the kitchen, the health center, the library, the case managers’ office and the advocacy conference room. In each room, tour guides explained the Connections’ services. 

Following the open house tour, Pastor Monté Dillard kicked off the celebratory remarks by discussing Connections’ founding in 1984.

“Connections was started in the basement of Lake Street Church,” Dillard said. “We have continued to grow and evolve to meet the growing and ever-changing needs in Evanston and throughout northern suburban Cook County.” 

Dillard said when Connections moved into the inn during the pandemic, the organization was not aware of the positive impact the building would have on the organization as a whole. 

[Read more about the Margarita Inn here.]

Former Margarita Inn resident Jelani Davis spoke to attendees about the support he received from the inn after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Davis moved out of the inn last weekend after signing a lease for an apartment. 

“This place, Connections (have) really been a big, big difference in my life for good,” Davis said. 

The inn also provides health services for residents who do not have access to medical care for an extended period of time. These services include health screenings for new residents and transportation to doctors’ appointments.

Jasmine Grimm, the health team care coordinator for Connections, underscored the importance of the medical care the inn offers.

“A lot of (the residents) haven’t met with doctors in years,” Grimm said. 

The purchase of the inn followed a contentious two-year debate about the future of the building. Connections’ plans to purchase the inn initially spurred debate among neighbors of the facility. 

In May, City Council approved a special-use permit to allow Connections to operate a permanent homeless shelter at the inn.

“It’s a very long and drawn-out process getting the appropriate special use permit and zoning that we needed,” Connection’s Chief Development Officer Nia Tavoularis said. 

Now that the organization owns the building, Tavoularis said the inn can now focus on improvements, specifically making its services more accessible for people with mobility issues. 

Despite a lengthy process to acquire the inn, speakers at the event, including the State of Illinois’ Homelessness Chief Christine Haley, underscored the importance of addressing homelessness. 

“We deeply believe in and affirm the work Connections has done to secure a compassionate crisis response for people that have lost their homes,” Haley said. “We know that homelessness disproportionately impacts Black communities, and the fight for housing justice is a fight for racial justice.” 

Email: [email protected]

X: @SarahSerota

Related Stories: 

After county votes to fund Margarita Inn shelter, advocates in south suburbs point out resource disparities 

Connections for the Homeless’ annual winter gear distribution helps individuals gear up for the cold 

Cook County officials designate $7 million purchase of Margarita Inn

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