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Posted on: August 15, 2019

City Meets Deadline Thanks to Community Effort; Transitions 200+ Asylum Seekers into Housing


The City of Portland announced today that it has met its August 15 deadline of returning the Portland Expo back to its contractually obligated operations thanks to a community wide effort that was able to house more than 200 recently arrived asylum seekers. Since June 9, the City has processed intake for almost 450 people. Additional families have been placed in the City’s Family Shelter units on Chestnut Street and others were placed with host families as part of Greater Portland Council of Government’s Host Homes program. 

City staff have worked tirelessly to find temporary and long-term housing opportunities for the families residing at the Expo, in addition to the 42 families that reside at the Family Shelter on Chestnut Street. 

“First and foremost, I want to thank our amazing and dedicated staff who have worked around the clock to successfully manage this emergency situation,” said City Manager Jon Jennings. “They make me proud to come to work each day. I also want to thank our community partners for the support we received operationally at the Expo and in transitioning these families into housing, and to the public at large for their willingness to donate, volunteer, and provide housing.” 

Jennings continued, “I’m also thankful for the support we’ve received from Governor Mills and her office, DHHS, and Maine Housing. They have played a critical role in our ability to access and find housing opportunities. As I’ve said before, the City simply could not do this all on our own given our existing resources.”

The City has found housing units for more than 200 people in Bath, Brunswick, Lewiston, Scarborough, and Portland. As of the morning of August 15, 78 people remained at the Expo with plans for additional families to move out during the day. At the time the Expo closed on the afternoon of August 15, 26 people were transitioned into the City’s previously used overflow spaces.

When the Family Shelter units (capacity of 42 families) on Chestnut Street are full, the City utilizes its Warming Center space attached to the Family Shelter. When that space is full, the City contracts with the Salvation Army for additional overflow space. Between the two spaces, the City has capacity to serve 110 more people. As families in the Family Shelter are transitioned into available housing units, families from the overflow spaces transition into the Family Shelter units. The City hired two new housing counselors and two new financial eligibility specialists to help find housing for the families it shelters. 

“While we’re extremely grateful that we were able to meet the August 15 deadline, our work is not done yet,” said Kristen Dow, the City’s Director of Health & Human Services. “We look forward to continuing the relationships we’ve established with our community partners to continue to house those who reside in all our shelters.”

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