SOUTH PORTLAND — Days Inn and Comfort Inn near the Maine Mall in South Portland will stop providing emergency shelter for asylum seekers and those experiencing homelessness due to complaints from the surrounding residents and businesses.  

Suresh Gali

Suresh Gali, head of New Gen Hospitality Management, speaks during a virtual meeting Friday, Feb. 25 hosted by South Portland officials to address problems generated largely by indigent homeless people being housed at three of his company’s hotels. Kelley Bouchard photo/Press Herald

Last week the city sent out a letter to South Portland residents and businesses stating that there would be a virtual meeting held on Feb. 25 with representatives from the hotels and the housing groups connected to them. The meeting was not open to the public and was held to discuss concerns, experiences and to produce solutions to the residents and businesses issues.

The nearby residents and businesses have complained about drug use, theft, trespassing, harassment and other safety concerns.  

“Our intentions all along have been to work with the hotels, with Portland and with the Social Services agencies involved to make sure that there was a balance there that people had a roof over their head, they had a warm place to stay, food, shelter everything they needed temporarily,” said South Portland City Manager Scott Morelli. “We were having a massive increase in our calls for public safety services, police and fire. The abiding neighborhoods were also seeing an uptick in crime.

“We have put some measures in place recently such as requiring private security at some of the hotels and better coordination of food and other services there. We were hoping this would resolve all those issues, get people the services they need, reduce the calls, and eliminate the negative impact that we have been seeing in the neighborhoods. We obviously haven’t gotten there yet and the January call numbers were far elevated than what they were pre-pandemic. They were a little bit better than what we saw in December and prior months which was good news, but they still weren’t where we wanted to see them.”                         

 Suresh Gali, head of the New Gen Hospitality Management, said Days Inn and Comfort Inn will not renew their contract with MaineHousing. The agreement runs out May 31 and 290 people will no longer be housed at the Days Inn or Comfort Inn.  


“New Gen Hospitality agreed to work with the state with a goal to assist individuals where we thought we could,” Gali said in an email after the meeting. “We have heard the concerns of our neighbors and so at the end of our current agreement with the state, New Gen Hospitality will let our agreement expire.”

City Manager Scott Morelli has stated that New Gen’s decision to end the contract was made prior to the Feb. 25 meeting. The city was made aware of the decision just before the meeting, the decision was not part of a deliberation at the meeting itself.  

“Ultimately the decision by New Gen to not keep those two hotels exclusively as shelter locations that was their decision and so on the one hand it will solve some of our problems in terms of crime in the area and the overwhelming number of calls that our police and fire folks are seeing because frankly those two hotels are counted for almost 50 percent of the calls for service that were seeing,” Morelli said. “At the same time, the result cannot be that the people in the hotels are put on the street and told to fend for themselves. Part of this needs to be a transitions plan which I know that Portland and Maine State Housing Authority are already working to find another location so that when June 1 comes there is another location for these individuals.

“We are going to play a part to make sure that it happens, and we are going to continue to have hotels that house individuals. There will be at least five still in South Portland there is the Quality Inn and the Howard Johnson, those are primarily asylum seeker locations and then there are the three other hotels that house shelter clients in them.” 

At the virtual meeting, 160 residents and business owners were invited by public officials to help address the public safety concerns related to the four local hotels that have been providing emergency shelter to the asylum seekers and those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.  

Numerous business owners near the Maine Mall said they have been frustrated by the behavior of guests staying at the surrounding hotels and their employees have been afraid while at work. They described people to be intoxicated, harassing their customers for money, use of drugs in public bathrooms and defecating in the shrubbery. Some of the businesses have stated that they have lost business.


“Chilis restaurant right next to the Days Inn, we have been working with them for about a month and we had a meeting similar to the one we had on Friday, but on a smaller scale with Chilis restaurant and some officials to try to resolve some of their issues,” Morelli said. “We heard at the meeting that there were a couple of other businesses, at least three other businesses that spoke that were all having issues.

“Jetport Gas representatives spoke and talked about theft and people with substance abuse disorder and going into the bathrooms and shooting up, I think is what they said, and passing out. There was a Mobil station down on Main Street that had some concerns with people panhandling and or being in the parking lot harassing people and some residents on the call said they do not go there anymore because of that. A hair salon in the Maine Mall area had said that their employees had been harassed, panhandled and threatened. They have lost clients and they can’t find employees to work there anymore because of it.”

The Howard Johnson hotel will continue to house families and asylum seekers. Due to the pending loss, the city is looking for other shelter space for more than 100 individuals who are currently being sheltered at the Days Inn and Comfort Inn. The city has been seeing the challenges of homelessness and has seen it continue to grow since the pandemic. 

“There is going to need to be other communities and hotels in those communities that step up and so that will be the goal over the next couple of months is to try to find locations that are willing to accept those folks in so that there is a seamless transition and definitely no one on the streets,” Morelli said.  

Morelli, along with the police chief, fire chief, social services director and other officials, met on March 1 to discuss the game plan on what needs to be done in the Maine Mall area between now and when the Days Inn and Comfort Inn close to shelter clients. The discussion reportedly centered on what needs to be done about the criminal activity and how the city can help businesses and residents in the area. 

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