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Portland discusses challenges in providing shelter for asylum seekers

Leaders said the city needs more temporary and transitional housing opinions.

PORTLAND, Maine — At a meeting Monday night, Portland city councilors discussed the challenges the city is having in providing shelter for asylum-seekers.

One factor driving this issue is the lack of temporary and transitional housing options in Portland, Interim City Manager Danielle West said. 

This is a problem West said will continue to get worse with the recent end of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which started in 2021 to help people pay rent and utilities during the pandemic.  

Councilor Mark Dion called on the city manager and mayor's offices to work on drafting proposed legislation to address the housing crisis. 

"Other states and commonwealths in the United States have seen fit to establish a state office for refugee resettlement and we should spearhead a similar effort," Dion said. "I would hope we have a bill to submit on that."

During the meeting, Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said her legislative committee has and will continue to work on the issue of affordable housing. 

A total of 870 people in Portland have benefitted from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, according to Snyder. At least 50 have already been given eviction notices for not being able to pay rent. 

Portland city leaders said they are continuing to work with organizations such as Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition and Preble Street to help provide food and shelter for asylum-seekers. 

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