The Scarborough Town Council has pledged $50,000 to support regional initiatives providing transitional housing for asylum seekers. The pledge comes from a request from the Scarborough Housing Alliance and was discussed March 15.

“This just makes a whole lot of sense, from a broader viewpoint,” said Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina. “We’ve got to do something for folks. I want to see Scarborough be a leader and providing this transitional housing to asylum seekers, not only is it the right thing to do, it’s an economic development issue. We need younger people, we need their kids, we need future generations.”

Immigrant families and individuals have consistently arrived in the greater Portland area over recent years and await final determination of their asylum status. These individuals are federally prohibited from working for the first six months, and so they are completely dependent on public support. In a system with a strained housing climate that already struggles to provide for the homeless, these “New Mainers” need assistance.

The Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) has created a long term proposal to make 200 units of transitional housing. New Mainers will be able to live in these for up to two years while navigating the asylum process and securing permanent housing. Recently, a site owned by Habitat for Humanity is hoped to be used to create transitional housing for 75 New Mainers. Safe in Maine, an organization raising funds to create transitional housing, is partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland for the project. They plan to convert a vacant 6,000-square-foot warehouse on the property into a family emergency shelter. Scarborough’s contribution will likely go toward that project.

“This is a collaboration in its early stages that is very promising,” said Belinda May, director of strategic partnerships at GPCOG. “We are applying for funding to get the shelter up and running and looking forward to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity to bring the whole project to fruition. So we would really appreciate an investment from Scarborough to help seed the Safe in Maine Fund. And what that really helps with the most is the pre-development activities. Because we can get funding for construction, it’s harder to fund all the work you have to do in advance to get to a place where construction is ready to begin.”

The council expressed support for Scarborough’s contribution.


“Homelessness has really hit the area hard over the past couple of years and specific targeted solutions like this one I think is the answer,” said Councilor John Cloutier. “It’s not gonna solve all our problems, but it’s gonna solve this specific issue that we know about and it’s a much more efficient way of addressing the issue so I’m happy to support this.”

Councilor April Sither said, “I feel like it’s very important for us to be a regional partner on this. (GPCOG’s) not just coming to Scarborough, they’re seeking partnership with other municipalities, I think this is a perfect time for Scarborough to lead by example and really be a good regional partner.”

The council unanimously voted to support the contribution.

“This is really a state and regional problem and it requires a state and regional solution,” said Council Chair Jon Anderson. “This year as a council we made a commitment to address housing choice and homelessness in Scarborough, but also recognize the need to partner with real providers like GPCOG who have the expertise to make a bigger impact. So I’m pleased that we’re taking a regional approach to this and offering what we can to support your efforts and really help these people who are coming over here and need a place to live, that momentary support to get them on their feet and become real active members of our community. I think it’s great, so I’m really excited to support this tonight.”

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