The Comfort Inn in Scarborough will transition clients out in three phases beginning Nov. 1. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

The Comfort Inn on Route 1 in Scarborough, which has been a temporary shelter for more than 80 unhoused people, will begin removing those guests in November.

Two on-site, full-time employees of the Opportunity Alliance, which placed the unhoused individuals at the Scarborough hotel, are assisting in the three-phase  transition. One-third of the guests will be removed by Nov. 1, another one-third by Dec. 1, and all remaining guests by Jan. 1. About 80 to 100 people have been sheltering at the hotel.

“I think that having The Opportunity Alliance on site with two full-time staff members is going to be very important,” Scarborough Police Chief Mark Holmquist said. “They’ll place people where they can, whether that’s at hotels or other housing avenues. They play an important role in this transition.”

However, finding somewhere to re-shelter the displaced Comfort Inn guests will be a challenge.

“Before the Comfort Inn decision, we already had a long list of people that are waiting for hotel placement,” Mary Cook, emergency rental program director for The Opportunity Alliance, told The Forecaster on Tuesday. “The reality of the climate is it’s happening across the state where people are really needing hotels to access shelter … the overall crisis is beyond what we can do.”

Staff is looking into other hotel accommodations for those who will be displaced and encouraging them to explore family and friend options pending a more permanent solution, Cook said.


Hotels began sheltering unhoused people during the pandemic, when existing shelter capacity in Portland was restricted. An influx of asylum-seekers, the economy and other factors have contributed to the number of unhoused people in the area.

The two full-time Opportunity Alliance staff members also are helping connect guests with long-term support for issues like substance abuse or mental health, as well as other forms of support.

“Really, kind of just intervening if someone is in crisis or needing support in the moment,” Cook said.

The Scarborough Town Council voted 6-1 last week to renew the hotel’s operating license with the condition of the hotel resuming normal operations by Jan. 1. The decision was sparked by an overwhelming number of emergency calls for service since the beginning of this year.

There have been a total of 349 calls for emergency service with 417 associated offenses at the hotel from Jan. 1 to Sept. 15, according to Holmquist.

“When we respond to individual calls for service, sometimes offenses are generated out of those calls,” Holmquist told The Forecaster on Monday. “In some cases, there were multiple offenses.”


Calls peaked in March when there were 85 calls for service and 132 offenses reported, ranging from assault to 911 misdials. Calls dropped to 26 in April but rose again to 31 in March and 41 in June.

Part of the reason for the drop-off was that the hotel’s owners took safety measures such as installing security cameras and hiring an on-site security company. Out of the 349 calls for service this year, 120 took place between July 1 and Sept. 15, with 57 of those coming in August, Holmquist said.

“We expected calls for service in August to increase,” the police chief said. “We’ve been hoping for more voluntary compliance from tenants themselves to not only report things to the security company but also to our police department, as needed. I think we’re seeing that is happening a little bit more than it had been in previous months, so that’s one of the reasons we felt they would increase.”

The peak time for emergency services calls has been between 4 p.m. and midnight, Holmquist said.

An increase in emergency service calls to hotels-turned-shelters also has occurred in South Portland.

There were 191 emergency service calls to hotels citywide in January, 52 of which came from the Comfort Inn and 32 from the Days Inn, both of which have been sheltering domestic unhoused people. Calls peaked in May with 221 at hotels citywide before dropping to 161 in August.


“There has been a downward trend since the start of the year – with a peak in May – so we expect this to continue,” City Manager Scott Morelli wrote in an email to The Forecaster.

At an Aug. 2 City Council meeting, South Portland councilors set conditions for four hotels in the city that are sheltering domestic unhoused individuals and asylum-seeking families. Two of those hotels, Comfort Inn and Days Inn are not allowed to shelter any unhoused individuals in rooms that become vacant as of Jan. 1, 2023. They are also not allowed to extend contracts or begin any new contracts to shelter people as of Feb. 28 next year. Any individuals remaining in the hotels after March 1 will have to pay a fine of no less than $350 per guest per day.

The number of calls has been putting a strain on South Portland emergency services, and the same is happening now in Scarborough.

“Our officers and the entire public safety team have been impacted by the increased calls for service at one location, in addition to providing service to other responsibilities in our thriving community,” Holmquist said.

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