PORTLAND — As the Aug. 15 deadline to end emergency shelter operations at the Portland Exposition Building approached, city staff hoped to find permanent housing for 132 asylum-seekers who remained in the building as of Tuesday morning.

Asylum-seekers being housed in the city’s temporary shelter at the Portland Expo on July 24. The city plans to close the shelter by Aug. 15 and resume using the Expo as a sports arena. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / PPH

The Expo was temporarily turned into an emergency homeless shelter in mid-June after an influx of asylum-seekers from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo came to the city from the southwestern border. Since June 9, 437 individuals have been processed at the Expo.

City Communications Director Jessica Grondin said so far 156 people, representing 52 families, have been moved to permanent housing in Portland, Scarborough, Bath, Brunswick and Lewiston.

Those numbers, Grondin said, do not include individuals placed in housing through the Greater Portland Council of Government’s Host Home program.

Tom Bell, public information officer for GPCOG, said as of Tuesday 23 families have been placed with hosts, primarily in greater Portland. He said 11 families still have to be matched through the host home program.

Bell said 100 people applied to host families. Members of Portland’s immigrant community are working with both the host families and their guests to bridge cultural gaps that might exist and address issues that may arise as a result.

Family Promise of Greater Portland, Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services, and Yarmouth Housing Initiative hosted a two-hour session on Aug. 10 at Gateway Community Services for hosts about to open their homes to asylum-seekers.

The deadline to move families out of the Expo is Thursday, Aug. 15. The Park Avenue building will then be returned to the Maine Red Claws, the G League basketball team that will start its 11th season in the building in November. City Manager Jon Jennings said last month that the team plans to resurface the basketball court before the beginning of training camp.

Families that do not have permanent housing by Thursday will have to moved from the Expo.

“We are confidently working toward housing enough people (so) that we can accommodate the remainder at our overflow operation at the Salvation Army space and the Warming Center space attached to our Family Shelter on Chestnut Street,”  Grondin said via email Aug. 9. “We can accommodate up to 110 people between these two spaces.”

City officials, Grondin said, will still continue to try to find housing for asylum-seekers after Aug. 15.

“Of course, this would not be the end of our work, as having folks in overflow is not ideal,” she said.

The overflow space at the Salvation Army is only open from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. and does not provide meals or other services now available at the emergency shelter at the Expo.

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