SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council unanimously extended the deadline for when two hotels must stop operating as emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Last August, the council imposed a Feb. 28 deadline for the Days Inn and Comfort Inn to stop hosting overflow clients from Portland’s shelters under a contract with MaineHousing. The hotels faced daily fines up to $500 per person if they missed the deadline.

New Gen Hospitality Management, the company that owns the hotels, asked the council to push the deadline to April 30, when the inns will be expected to resume hosting overnight guests as their operating licenses allow.

“I support housing people,” Mayor Kate Lewis said late Tuesday night before the council’s 7-0 votes on each hotel’s license. “I really believe in the power of stable housing, even if it’s temporary.”

While some homeless people have been sheltered in local hotels in the past, the practice escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the number of people experiencing homelessness greatly increased, including asylum seekers.

More than 800 homeless individuals are being housed in South Portland hotels, city officials said. They include some of the 950 people that are being sheltered by the city of Portland.


In the wake of the hotel controversy, city officials are developing zoning and licensing proposals that would allow nonprofits to establish homeless shelters in South Portland.

The council imposed the initial deadline on the Days and Comfort inns after the hotels failed to reduce high calls for police, fire and emergency medical services, and other community concerns related to hosting homeless people at their properties.

“I’m for ending this as soon as possible,” Suresh Gali, head of New Gen, told the council. “We’re trying to help these people as much as possible.”

Gali said the Comfort Inn, 90 Maine Mall Road, is sheltering 131 people, including 55 asylum seekers and five children; and the Days Inn, 461 Maine Mall Road, is sheltering 98 adults, including 75 asylum seekers.

Several residents and homeless advocates urged the council to extend the deadline.

“These are people in need,” said Dr. Gregg Raymond, who said he has cared for many new Mainers. “They have risked everything for a better life. Do not turn these people out on the streets.”


A shelter guest at the Comfort Inn told the council, “I would end up living in my car.”

Under the new agreement with New Gen, MaineHousing will continue to pay lodging costs for homeless people at the Days and Comfort inns, and Preble Street, the Portland nonprofit, will continue to provide on-site social services, City Manager Scott Morelli told the council.

The Mills administration recently allocated $21 million for homeless initiatives, including funding to keep unhoused people in hotels through April after federal emergency rental assistance ran out last fall.

Morelli said city staff met with the hotel owner and representatives of MaineHousing, Preble Street and the governor’s office, and all recommended extending the deadline.

“We’re hoping this is the last extension,” he said.

Morelli said city staff is negotiating end dates with other hotels that have been sheltering unhoused people.


Under the new agreement, shelter guests at the Comfort Inn will be transferred to other hotels so it can be renovated and return to normal operations as soon as possible, Morelli said. Domestic unhoused guests will be moved to the Days Inn, while asylum-seeking individuals will be moved to the Howard Johnson hotel at 675 Main St., another New Gen property that is sheltering 195 people, including 192 asylum seekers and 104 children.

Eventually, some guests at the Days Inn will be transferred to the $25 million, 208-bed homeless services center that Portland is slated to open in mid-March to replace its aging and cramped Oxford Street Shelter, Morelli said.

Some asylum seekers currently staying in hotels also likely will be placed at the 52-unit housing project that Avesta Housing is building on Westbrook Street, Morelli said. The remaining guests will need to find another housing solution before May 1, he said.

The council also extended the fines on New Gen if any shelter guests at the Days or Comfort inns remain after April 30.

“This condition will help protect against shuffling individuals from one hotel to another to avoid fines,” Morelli said.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.