An influx of asylum seekers is forcing Portland to create an emergency shelter at the Portland Expo, where pro basketball games are played.
City Manager Jon Jennings said the city officials are working with the Red Cross and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to staff the shelter. The city expects to set up 350 cots in the Expo Wednesday night.
More than 100 asylum seekers have arrived since Sunday, and Jennings said another 150 are expected in the coming week. He said he’s been told by the city manager in San Antonio that there are currently between 1,500 and 2,000 African migrants seeking border asylum. That figure represents the total number of African migrants entering the U.S., not Maine specifically.
On Wednesday, Jennings said that private organizations were pitching in with support, and that the city would rely on community “volunteerism” to help mitigate reliance on taxpayer funds. The city set up a “text-to-donate” line for monetary donations (text EXPO to 91999).
Jennings also said he wanted to dispel “scurrilous rumors” about the poor health of those arriving to Portland.
Jennings said that Preble Street would be providing dinner Wednesday night and breakfast Thursday morning.
“We welcome these people, and the city wants to help them to become part of our community as quickly as possible,“ Strimling said. “This is what government is here for.”
The use of the Portland Expo is a stopgap measure this summer. It’s available until the Maine Red Claws begin their season in October.
BDN writer Nick Schroeder contributed to this report.