Portland, Maine is trying to house hundreds of asylum seekers.
The situation has not prompted the city to turn venues like the Portland Expo into temporary shelters, but it has left a number of families waiting in motels for years as they search for permanent homes.
The exact number of people currently in temporary housing like hotels and motels is around 300, according to The Portland Press Herald.
“All our motels in the Greater Portland area are filled, general assistance offices do not have a place to place folks right now,” said Victoria Morales, a Democratic Maine State Rep. from South Portland, who is also the executive director of a group called Quality Housing Coalition.
The non-profit organization brings together Portland-area landlords, charities and other non-profits and helps find government housing resources with the goal of combatting Portland and Maine’s housing crisis.
In an interview Tuesday, Morales explained that the high demand for housing in Maine, made worse by the pandemic, has prevented asylum seekers, even those who have general assistance approval or housing vouchers, from finding permanent homes.
“People are in limbo,” she said.
However, despite the daunting task of combating a housing crisis, Morales believes the issue is “at a turning point.”
She is optimistic because Maine Gov. Janet Mills has looked at allocating $50 million in federal COVID-19 funding given to Maine toward housing.
There could also be more federal dollars available for affordable housing if a federal infrastructure spending package passes Congress.
More immediately, Morales said, awareness of Maine’s housing crisis has prompted landlords to reach out to her both large and small, saying they have units available for people who need them.
She is also reaching out to landlords to find entities interested in housing families herself.
“What we’re doing around that is supporting those landlords and supporting those tenants with housing mentors and financial guarantees,” she said.
Morales also said that she is in the process of speaking to multiple churches struggling with attendance and upkeep about using their facilities to house people who need homes and says its possible the State of Maine may have land upon which affordable housing could be built, which would greatly reduce the cost of construction.
“The collaboration is growing,” she said.