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Making space for people sleeping outside, Portland to open new asylum seeker shelter

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Making space for people sleeping outside, Portland to open new asylum seeker shelter

Nov 28, 2023 | 4:32 pm ET
By AnnMarie Hilton
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Making space for people sleeping outside, Portland to open new asylum seeker shelter
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An encampment of unhoused Portland residents on Marginal Way. Overall, the number of tents across Portland went from 75 in late February to more than 275 at the end of October. (AnnMarie Hilton/Maine Morning Star)

A new emergency shelter is opening Wednesday in Portland with 179 beds and wrap-around services for asylum seekers. 

The shelter is opening due to increased demand from asylum seeking individuals, according to a news release from the city. The roughly 16,000 square-foot facility at 166 Riverside Street will be operated by city of Portland Health and Human Services staff for the first 18 months, and then the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, which will provide food service, will take over all operations.

As the city continues to face a homelessness crisis, the new shelter will free up about 120 of the 208 beds at the Homeless Services Center (HSC) on Riverside Street, the release said. The City Council also recently approved temporarily adding 50 more beds to the HSC. The newly available beds will be prioritized for people currently sleeping outside. Since the intake process takes time, the city is planning to open a block of shelter beds each week.

The city will continue to use the Encampment Crisis Response Team to connect unhoused people with available shelter beds and other resources.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the city’s tent tracker listed more than 230 tents still set up throughout Portland. On top of that, the city estimates that once the new shelter is open, it will be providing beds for about 1,000 people on a nightly basis between HSC, the new asylum-seeker shelter and a Family Shelter on Chestnut Street.

Developers Collaborative constructed the new shelter with a grant MaineHousing awarded to the nonprofit arm of the Greater Portland Council of Governments.