Portland Area Leaders Attempt to Raise $1.5 Million to Create Housing for Asylum Seekers

PORTLAND, ME – MIRC and The Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) are proud to spearhead an effort to provide transitional housing to asylum seekers in the state of Maine. The Safe in Maine Fund aims to raise $1.5 million to build 200 transitional housing units within the next two years, providing asylum seekers with vital stability and support services.

In recent years, asylum seekers arriving in Maine have been housed in local hotels, costing as much as $7,000 per month. Though FEMA currently provides reimbursement, funding is expected to run out in October at which point families and communities would assume responsibility for the costs. It can sometimes take months for asylum seekers to qualify for work, which could lead to significant financial strain.

These transitional housing units will not only relieve families and communities of this cost but will also provide basic amenities like kitchens to help foster stability and independence. “Creating transitional housing creates sufficiency,” said MIRC Executive Director Mufalo Chitam. “We want to see people be able to be independent and fend for themselves.”

The design and location of these houses have yet to be finalized, but GPCOG has identified a number of potential building sites on the stretch of coast between York and Brunswick.

The City of Westbrook kicked off the fundraising effort by providing $5,000 from its contingency fund. Speaking in support of the initiative, Mayor Michael T. Foley said, “working to provide transitional housing for asylum seekers is critical to providing a safe and stable solution, and an effective use of limited taxpayer dollars. We encourage other communities and those who wish to support these efforts to join us.” MIRC calls on private donors, grants, foundations, and municipalities to help us reach our goal.

While these 200 units will provide a vital boost for asylum seekers, it will not meet the entire need. There are currently over 400 people living in hotels, and at times this number has been significantly higher. Chitam echoes the sentiment that the road to a satisfactory solution still stretches far ahead: “we want a national policy dedicated to asylum seekers that will address their resettlement in Maine,” she says.

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