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Asylum seekers to begin English language crash course

Portland city leaders have narrowed their focus on finding English language services and long-term housing for hundreds of asylum seekers.

PORTLAND, Maine — Portland city leaders provided an update Wednesday on what they're calling "phase two" of their response to the arrival of hundreds of asylum seekers from African countries.

As many as 250 people continue to live at the emergency shelter set up at the Portland Expo Center in addition to more than 40 families living at the Family Shelter on Chestnut Street.

City officials are working under an August 15th deadline to find more long-term housing solutions.

So far, city officials say seven families have moved to rental housing in the Midcoast.

RELATED: Asylum seekers relocate to Brunswick, more expected

Meanwhile, the city is using its cultural orientation program to help with urgent needs like housing and English language services. 

It's a program the city already offers monthly to new Mainers. However, with the influx of asylum seekers, there had to be some adjustments. 

On Monday, the program will begin offering a four-week English language crash course.

"The intent is really what we're defining as 'survival English' so that they're able to say their name, that they're able to say their address, that they can recognize forms," said Julia Trujillo, Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. "Really basics so they can survive in the immediate situation."

The city is working with local organizations like Learning Works, Hope House English Language Services, In Her Presence, and the YMCA to offer the course.

The Children's Museum will provide childcare services while parents attend those classes.

RELATED: City leaders continue to wait for Gov. Mills' answer on asylum seeker funding

RELATED: Portland city leaders to determine how $800,000 in donations will be spent on asylum seekers

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