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. Without proper social services, many of these residents are struggling and face uncertain futures.

On Nov. 16, the Scarborough Town Council voted unanimously to authorize enforcement proceedings against the Comfort Inn.

Under the license ordinance the town of Scarborough has with the Comfort Inn, if conditions for the hotel are not being met and therefore violations exist, there is the opportunity to levy fines to the license holder, or the innkeeper. In this case, the consensus of the town council is that the Comfort Inn has not provided proper social services to the residents of the inn.

“The reality is that a community is a group of people that look after each other,” said Orlando Perez at the public comment section of the Nov. 16 town council meeting. “When somebody is downfallen, you reach out. You know your neighbors. … I’ve lived in other states where there was a Scarborough, and there was a huge difference, almost night and day, between the temperament of those people and the opportunity to help those in need. Their neighbors, in fact. It’s quite different than what I felt here.”

There is currently a transition plan to remove the unhoused residents from the Comfort Inn , in part due to numerous violations there.

These residents are struggling with the lack of important social services, especially after the removal of the two on-site staff from the Opportunity Alliance (TOA).


Social service supports at the hotel ended about two weeks ago. The Opportunity Alliance had two workers staffed at the inn, but they were removed when funding from Maine State Housing Authority’s Emergency Rental Program (ERA) ran out. The town’s own social services resources are limited, though their Social Services Navigator and General Assistance Officer have been in touch with most residents. Materials have been given to guests at the inn to make them aware of other resources should they need them. The town is expecting additional American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds which could be used to offset costs for social service support. Currently, the town expects the hotel owner to provide social service supports, as was expected in their original agreement.

Evictions are taking place in three phases. The plan was to remove one-third of the unsheltered residents by Nov. 1, another third by Dec. 3, and the remaining by Jan. 1. As of Nov. 13, all guests have been served with proper paperwork, a notice to quit. As of Nov. 13, 23 of 69 rooms in the hotel are currently vacant.

“For all intents and purposes, it looks as though the transition plan is being executed pretty much on schedule,” said Town Manager Thomas Hall. “I do expect there will be several current guests of the Comfort Inn that may end up lingering a bit longer than the first of the year. I think there are some unique and extenuating circumstances that shouldn’t be a surprise and I think need to be respected and worked with.”

The fire chief has inspected the hotel rooms and has noted growing concern regarding seven or eight of them. He is currently coordinating with people at the Cumberland County level to assist him in a reinspection that will occur sometime just after Thanksgiving.

The security system at the hotel will be changing. The innkeeper has asked for a modified approach as opposed to the level of on-site support that has been provided for the past months. The security will go down to four days a week, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., with random checks for the other days between 4 p.m. and 6a.m. This system will be in place for 30 days following Nov. 16. The police chief is comfortable with this proposal as the transition plan is being executed.

“(The Opportunity Alliance) received notice that the additional funds that we had available that would carry us through December fell short,” said Mary Cook, program director for TOA’s rental assistance program. “So we had to lay off 43 staff. We served all of Cumberland County for rent relief and hotel assistance. … These two staff … were doing amazing work in the short time that they were there. They were able to set people up with case management, necessary community resources, and working on long term housing. They developed strong relationships with the guests at the hotel. We were seeing immense progress with the overall culture of the hotel. We were very saddened to have to remove these staff. They have since moved on to new roles within the organization. But we are lucky enough that they can extend some outreach to the hotel ongoing, but we recognize this does not come close to the level of support that they were providing before”


The Comfort Inn situation has been a frequent topic in Scarborough Town Council meetings. “… You have updates often, do you not, about how things are progressing at the Comfort Inn. But you don’t have the positives,” Perez said. “There are those who are busting their behinds to find that housing. … I understand your frustrations with some of the emergency calls. But what you don’t know is that we’ve had three deaths there that had nothing to do with drugs or violence of any nature. They are old people or people who are infirmed. My friend Brian was one of them, who just died.”

“…We are not currently getting food there,” he said. “There are a couple families there with children younger than two who aren’t being fed. The police station was called to liaison. Nothing was done.”

The future is uncertain for those displaced. “I can say definitively that there is not a plan for these folks if they are displaced from this hotel,” Cook said. “The surrounding communities in and across the state of Maine, we are seeing a drastic increase of unsheltered homelessness, and the shelters are far overburdened. There are hundreds of households that are at risk of displacements due to the closure of ERA. We are anticipating that the households displaced from the Comfort Inn will be forced to live in even more unsafe living conditions or unsheltered homelessness.”

After a brief discussion, the council unanimously voted to exercise their power to authorize enforcement proceedings against the inn for failing to provide adequate social services.

“The owner has shown that he is no longer going to provide a certain level of service to the residents, and I think that is where the council can exercise our authority and hold him to an agreement that we had established months ago,” said Councilor April Sither. “I just want us as a council to keep a continued focus on the fact that we do serve the residents of this hotel and this establishment and that we are dedicated to continuing to provide services to them. I would also at some point, Tom (Hall) like to be able to address the fact that they are not getting meals. If there is something we can do, I would like that addressed.”

The town council will discuss the Comfort Inn situation again on Dec. 7.

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