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Deadline nears for closing shelter for asylum-seekers

July 24, 2019

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Some people on the City Council are accusing Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling of sending mixed signals to more than 200 African asylum-seekers about their housing prospects.

The city is racing to find housing for more than 200 newcomers who are living at an emergency shelter at the Portland Expo before Aug. 15, when it will close.

So far, 38 families have been placed in housing from Portland to as far away as Bath, the Portland Press Herald reported . But many newcomers want to stay in Portland, which is home to Congolese and Angolan communities.

“It’s very frustrating and upsetting for staff to work this hard to find housing for these families and have it turned down over and over,” Kristen Dow, director of Portland’s Health and Human Services Department, said of the stalled effort to find homes for the newcomers.

Strimling acknowledged during the meeting Tuesday night that he told some of the newcomers that they cannot be forced to live where they don’t want to. But he also says he warned that they could be left homeless if they reject other housings offers.

Councilor Belinda Ray accused Strimling of “spreading misinformation” and putting the newcomers “in peril of becoming homeless.”

City Councilor Jill Duson argued that the families who have turned down housing should be given another chance before being asked to leave.

She said those families probably don’t understand that when the Expo is closed, they will be moved to the overflow facility at the Salvation Army. “It’s not a pleasant alternative,” she said.

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