Pastor Amelia Edson, Kathie Sinnett, Jessica Collins and Steve Hendry with holiday gifts for the families staying at Falmouth Congregational Church. Sydney Richelieu / The Forecaster

Falmouth Congregational Church has been sheltering three unhoused asylum-seeking families, providing them with a warm place to sleep, a kitchen and some holiday cheer.

Working with Greater Portland Family Promise, a nonprofit that helps families find temporary and long-term housing, the church agreed to host 14 people for two weeks. The families escaped violence in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Our church is fortunate because we have the space to house families,” said church member Steve Hendry. “Each family has a separate room they can call their own, and we have a big hall for them to hang out in.”

A family’s room at Falmouth Congregational Church. Sydney Richelieu

The church has an industrial kitchen where the families are able to cook for themselves.

“What parent doesn’t like to cook food for their children at the end of the day?” Pastor Amelia Edson said.

Family Promise has been working with congregations in the area to shelter families for two weeks at a time. The effort is needed because the one family shelter in Portland is already overcrowded and funding has ended to pay for asylum-seeking families to stay at area hotels, organizers said.


Michelle Lamm, executive director of Greater Portland Family Promise, said the family shelter in Portland has overnight facilities and a warming room that is available during the day, but there are at least 36 people sleeping in the warming room at night.

Family Promise has a partnership with the YMCA, and the families sleeping at churches spend the day there. Family Promise also helps families navigate the asylum application process, which is currently taking up to a year, she said.

“The biggest challenge is that there’s no housing,” Lamm said.

Edson is proud of her congregation’s efforts to provide shelter to those in need, but said it is only an emergency response to a bigger crisis.

“When you get to a suburb like Falmouth and you realize that there are 14 people sleeping in the basement of a Falmouth suburban church, you start to think, this is a housing crisis that’s out of control,” Edson said.

Edson emphasized that the community of Falmouth has stepped up to make the families feel welcome, especially during the holiday season. The kids staying at the church were even involved in the congregation’s Christmas pageant.

“I’m so proud of being the church at Christmas that has room at the inn and welcoming these families with open arms,” Edson said.

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