We Are All Inn - Finally
There've been a lot of Margarita moments over the past four years — some wonderful, some challenging — but yesterday’s open house and celebration of the purchase of this beautiful building, as Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss said, was a moment of joy.
I've never been more proud of this agency than I was yesterday. It was a demonstration of every one of our core values in action.
If you weren’t able to attend, I highly encourage you to watch the livestream because the speakers eloquently captured what Connections’ purchase of the Margarita Inn means for the entire Evanston community.
One of the highlights for me were the comments from Jelani Davis, who moved into the Margarita Inn in November after he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. "This place has really made a big difference in my life for the good, and hopefully, if everything goes well, I'll have an additional 20 years of life thanks to Connections." And just days before the event, Jelani was able to sign a new lease and move into his new apartment in Park Ridge.
I was also struck by Mayor Biss’ comments, noting that despite all the opposition we faced, today we can say that by and large we’ve won the argument in the Evanston community. "I think today, in February of 2024, the great majority of Evanstonians are proud to be the home of the Margarita Inn, are proud of the work that we are doing together…Thank you Evanston, thank you to this community, for the values you hold dear that you're willing to actually live up to, not just announce."
We were also grateful for the words of support from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who called the purchase of the Margarita Inn to serve as a shelter “a remarkable achievement [and] a testament to the dedication and collaborative efforts of everyone involved.”
She also sent us this statement: “My administration is proud to support Connections for the Homeless and the Margarita Inn — this worthy investment will not only provide shelter for those experiencing homelessness, but also provide them resources benefitting their long-term health,” she said. “By providing residents onsite healthcare and employment services, Connections for the Homeless continues to empower our residents to live fruitful, independent lives. Housing—quality housing—is a human right.”
In the end, every speaker made a distinct and compelling case for why we all should be proud of our work to turn the Margarita Inn into a hotel-based shelter. Pastor Monté Dillard was a great master of ceremonies. Our neighbor and ally Toni Rey brought the same energy that she showed during the many mobilizations to city council meetings last year. Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita, Chief Homelessness Officer for the State of Illinois Christine Haley, and HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Rich Monocchio also spoke to why the county, state, and federal governments respectively all support the innovative work we’re doing at the Margarita Inn.
I think it’s only fitting to end with the closing words of Pastor Dillard. As Connections welcomes this new era, “we cannot lose momentum” as we continue to pursue our commitment to end homelessness, one person at a time.
CEO, Connections for the Homeless