The Comfort Inn in Scarborough.  Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH — The Comfort Inn on U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough has been used to temporarily house more than 80 unsheltered residents for months. Now, they are in the process of being evicted, but many have no place to go.

Evictions are taking place three phases. The plan was to remove one-third of the unsheltered by Nov. 1, another third by Dec. 3, and the remaining by Jan. 1.

Two evictions have taken in place as of Nov. 9. There was a hearing for seven more on Nov. 10 with the remainder scheduled for Dec. 8. Some residents have already left willingly.

Unhoused residents begin transition out of hotel

While the Comfort Inn has been home to the unsheltered residents, there has been a large number of calls to the town’s Public Safety departments. 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 an article by The Forecaster. This trend precipitated the eviction.

The Scarborough Town Council voted 6-1 to renew the hotel’s operating license under the condition of the hotel returning to “normal operations.” Preparations for the this are to begin Jan. 1, with the hope that the hotel will be operating under a traditional business model by the spring. A first round of eviction notices was issued in September, followed by a second round in October, and a third round in November.


“You know, I can understand any town which isn’t set up to have essentially a shelter in their town to feel like this is overwhelming, like this is too much for the town to respond to,” said Mary Cook, the program director for the The Opportunity Alliance’s rental assistance program. The Opportunity Alliance, or TOA, has been the agency placing the unhoused residents in Scarborough.

The state and the country is facing an unprecedented amount of homelessness, Cook said.

“I’ve been working in homeless services, in housing, since 2010 and the state of homelessness and poverty right now in our state and our country is far beyond what I’ve ever seen,” she said. “People being housed is not happening at the rate it needs to. And so we are seeing the need for municipalities and communities to respond and care for people and our state in a new and different way. And this is one model that isn’t ideal. I don’t think anyone wants to be living in a hotel, and the hotel doesn’t want to be renting in this way, and the town doesn’t want to have this set up.”

There was hope that the evictions could be staved off until the end of the winter, said Cook.

“But this is what we have and this is an opportunity for a community to wrap around these Mainers that need care and if there’s a way to make it work at least to get through winter months it just feels really important,” she said.

Cook said, more long term solutions for housing in Maine are needed but felt until that occurred keeping people at the hotel was the best solution.


“So I think like, we are at a place of needing creative solutions as a state,” Cook said. “And to see communities respond differently than they have in the past. Which has been a lot on Portland and South Portland to respond to the homelessness crisis in the state because they’re the biggest resource hubs, but it’s far beyond what even they can manage. So if people are displaced from this hotel, they’re going to be unsheltered, or they’re going to be forced to live in unsafe living conditions. Even if we have concerns with the hotel, it would be better suited to support the hotel so that hotel is as safe as possible for people instead of forcing them into situations which are even more unsafe.”

However, without additional funding avoiding evictions unlikely. Maine State Housing is connecting with the treasury to see if additional funds can be made available to the state, but that is still unknown.

The Opportunity Alliance had provided two on-site, full-time employees to assist with the transition. The guests’ stays and the TOA staff were funded by Maine State Housing Authority Emergency Rental Program (ERA). However, funding expires at the end of November and is not being renewed. As a result, the TOA staff have been removed, putting more pressure on Scarborough Police and their Social Services Navigator Lauren Dembski-Martin, according to a memo from Police Chief Mark Holmquist.

The lack of the TOA staff is problematic, Holmquist told the town council. “We know the mental health piece is a huge component of this entire scenario and it is imperative that we get social workers back in to the hotel,” he said.

TOA is working with Scarborough Police Department’s Social Services navigator to assist the evicted residents of the Comfort Inn in finding housing.

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