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Community members help house Sanford asylum seekers

While Portland shelters are at capacity, more than 100 asylum seekers have come to Sanford to find a place to call home.

SANFORD, Maine — On the steps of Sanford City Hall, men, women, and children could be found sitting and waiting for a place to call home. 

They're among the influx of more than 100 asylum seekers Sanford city officials said have come to the city in search of general assistance and housing. 

"It’s hard to watch," Marcia Farmer of Sanford said.

Farmer told NEWS CENTER Maine she and other community members are helping 25 of the asylum seekers who recently came to Sanford by paying for their hotel rooms with their own money. 

"Because they’re desperate," she said. "Even though we’re all struggling right now with housing and whatnot, you can’t leave people like that."

Using Google Translate, Farmer has been communicating with the asylum seekers. She said they told her they came from the Portland Expo where people told them to come to Sanford, but the City of Portland denies that. 

Jessica Grodin, a spokesperson for the city of Portland said in a statement, "Since we have reached capacity, we have been meeting our GA obligation by issuing landlord forms, which puts people on a self-directed housing search and provides them with information on possible community resources in the greater Portland area. In no situation have we directed people to specific communities."

Sanford City Manager Steven Buck said they are doing all they can to help the asylum seekers in partnership with community organizations.

"The city is providing what is required, what's mandated under general assistance laws, we're providing those services no different than we would for anybody else," Buck said.

There is an emergency city meeting in Sanford that's scheduled at 5 p.m. on Tuesday to address the situation.

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