October 16, 2019
Portland Latest News | Nick Isgro | Bangor Metro | Nor'easter | Today's Paper

‘We’ve got a really critical situation’: 250 asylum seekers need housing by early August

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A child plays a game on a phone at the emergency shelter setup inside the Portland Expo building in June 2019.

The clock is ticking as Portland city leaders scramble to find permanent housing for hundreds of asylum seekers.

They’ve been sleeping on cots at the Portland Expo since June 12.

City officials say they’re feeling pressure to get the Expo back to their tenants, the Red Claws.

“We’re doing our best under very difficult circumstances,” said City Manager Jon Jennings during a Friday morning interview with radio station WGAN.

As of Friday morning, 252 asylum seekers are still staying at the Expo, according to city spokesperson Jessica Grondin.

Jennings said his staff is searching statewide for housing.

“We don’t want these families to have to be in a basketball gym. We want to get them into secure and permanent housing as soon as possible, Jennings said.

He said they need 125-150 units of housing to get the Expo back to the Red Claws by early next month.

The city has found housing for some of the 360 asylum seekers who started arriving in Portland in early June.

“But as soon as we house someone we have other families show up, and so we’re not making a tremendous amount of progress in terms of getting people housed,” Jennings said.

As of Friday, 40 asylum seekers were being moved to private housing in Brunswick.

The Red Claws are moving their annual summer basketball camp later this month to Southern Maine Community College.

“We’ve got a really critical situation in trying to find housing for families. At the same time there’s pressure on the city to turn the Expo back over to our tenants,” Jennings aid.

City officials couldn’t say how much it’s costing to run the emergency shelter at the Expo, but they expect to have numbers for the finance committee later this month.

The city has received $800,000 in donations to help the asylum seekers, and Jennings plans to ask the Council for some of that money to reimburse Expo expenses to take some of the burden off taxpayers.

 



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