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Avesta Housing preparing to open residential complex for asylum seekers

The new 52-unit building on Westbrook Street in South Portland includes a mix of efficiency, up to three-bedroom apartments.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Avesta Housing is preparing to open a new apartment complex intended for asylum seekers. 

The facility, on Westbrook Street in South Portland, will include 52 units, and the nonprofit housing developer hopes families can begin moving into their new homes in November.

"I think we're all just excited to be a small piece of the solution," Amanda Gilliam, Avesta Housing director of property management, said.

This comes as hundreds of asylum seekers have arrived in Maine in the last two years. Many families have been housed at local hotels after arrival.

"These households really just have no option because many of them can't work yet and are perhaps in the most-dire situation," Gilliam said. 

Gilliam added that Avesta has partnered with MaineHousing, the governor's office, local municipalities, and nonprofits to help finance and facilitate the project. 

The new facility, West End II, is next to another Avesta-run property. It will include a mix of housing units from efficiency up to three-bedroom units.

"We can really house a huge variety of households, whether those are large households, up to seven people, or just individuals," Gilliam said.

According to Gilliam, Avesta Housing opened the application portal for West End II for one week in September. Gilliam said during that time, 1,000 households applied. 

"Housing is the bedrock for any stability for a family," Mufalo Chitam, executive director of the Maine Immigrants Right Coalition, said.

Chitam works every day with those seeking asylum in Maine. She said it's a step in the right direction to see housing projects move forward, but there's still much to be done to support the more than 1,000 asylum seekers in Maine.

"It's going to make a difference. But it's just a dent into the situation," Chitam said. "Every three months, we need to be having conversations like this come up."

Avesta Housing is hoping to secure another housing project soon too. According to Gilliam, Avesta is currently in negotiations to purchase an apartment building under construction in Portland's East Deering neighborhood which could house up to 48 asylum-seeking families. 

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