Monday, April 17, 2023

Maine City Reopens Arena to Hundreds of Asylum Seekers; Portland Expo opens to house asylum seekers in Maine

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
Maine city reopens arena to hundreds of asylum seekers
Hundreds of asylum seekers filed into a basketball arena in Portland on Monday as Maine’s largest city deals with a months-long surge in immigration that has taxed its already limited housing market.
It’s the second time in recent years that Portland has repurposed the Portland Exposition Building -- a century-old red-brick gym that houses a minor league basketball team and has hosted everyone from President John F. Kennedy to the Beach Boys -- to serve migrants. The floor of the arena was lined with cots as families carried in bags of clothes, food and personal possessions.
Communities around the country have been dealing with growing numbers of asylum seekers, and pending rule changes could mean more are coming. A COVID-19 pandemic rule that has suspended rights to seek asylum for many is slated to end in May.
It was a massive undertaking to make Portland’s temporary shelter ready for asylum seekers, but it was not as frantic as in 2019, when the city ramped up in 24 hours, said Kristen Dow, Portland’s director of health and human services.
But the local situation is nonetheless dire.
More than 1,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Portland so far this year, and the city is has been sheltering about 1,200 people per night. A new emergency shelter with 208 beds filled to capacity on its opening night last month, and, including the Exposition Building, the city has no more large spaces to use, Dow said. --->READ MORE HERE
Portland Expo opens to house asylum seekers in Maine:
The Portland Expo opens Monday to provide temporary emergency housing for asylum seekers. Since Jan. 1, the city says about 1,000 asylum seekers have sought shelter and services in Portland.
The Expo will be able to accommodate about 300 people and is expected to be at capacity when it opens at 1 p.m. Monday. Services there will only be available to those who are registered to stay at the Expo.
Interim City Manager Danielle West had outlined the plans in late March. The city has been using a public school gymnasium to serve as an overnight overflow shelter space for 140 people but will now shift to the Expo now that the Maine Celtics no longer need it.
The expo shelter will cost the city more than $100,000. The city has purchased cots, paired with blankets donated by L.L.Bean. As it did when the shelter opened in 2019 amid a similar influx of asylum seekers, the city is once again asking for volunteers and donations ahead of the shelter's opening on Monday.
"We have a lot of shifts to fill, whether it's around meal-serving or prep or donations and sorting through those," Portland HHS Director Kristen Dow said Friday. They're also looking for interpreters for various languages, primarily French, Portuguese, and Lingala. --->READ MORE HERE
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