A young girl sweeps up the area around her cot at the Portland Expo in June. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Portland plans to contract with two hotels to house the remaining asylum seekers from the Portland Expo when the temporary shelter closes next week.

“We want to have a few more months to find them housing placements or work them into the existing system, such as units that may open up at the family shelter,” city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said Friday afternoon.

The contracts for the two hotels, both of which are located in the greater metro area outside Portland, were expected to be signed later Friday. Grondin said she did not want to disclose the locations until the documents were signed so as not to jeopardize the negotiations.

The temporary shelter at the Expo, which opened in April to house an influx of asylum seekers, is scheduled to close Wednesday.

The city set the closure date weeks ago and stopped accepting new families at the Expo in early June, saying it would need to reopen the sports arena for scheduled events this fall.

More than 1,600 asylum seekers have arrived in Portland since Jan. 1, overwhelming already strained shelter and housing resources. A total of 192 people are currently staying at the Expo, down from around 300 this spring.


“We’ve had pretty good success finding housing placements, so we don’t anticipate having to use the hotels for very long, but obviously we need something in the interim,” Grondin said.

The city is hoping to use one of the hotels for a few months, while the second one could be used for up to a year, she said. The state reimburses the city for 70% of General Assistance costs, which would be used to pay for the hotels, while the city is responsible for 30%. The city expects its share of the cost for the hotels to be around $500,000, Grondin said.

The contracts don’t require City Council approval, but the council is expected to receive an update on the plans at its meeting Monday.

In the meantime, Grondin said staff were planning to let families at the Expo know about the plans Friday afternoon and that the city was in the process of informing community organizations, which are expected to help provide support services at the hotels.

Details on transportation and how the families will be moved to the hotels are being worked out, she said.

The announcement comes as the city and community groups have been scrambling to find new housing for families at the Expo, some of whom already have been moved to other options, including spaces that have opened up at the city’s family shelter and a motel in Portland that accepts General Assistance.



The city, Quality Housing Coalition and Greater Portland Council of Governments last month launched a home share program aimed at connecting tenants, including asylum seekers, with landlords and homeowners with extra space in apartments, homes and short-term rentals. Officials hoped it would help empty the Expo and provide people staying there with a place to go.

Brit Vitalius, president of the board of directors for the Quality Housing Coalition, said Friday that there has been only one successful placement in the home share program so far, though the coalition has about 30 other leads it is exploring.

He said making the match between families and homeowners can be challenging.

“It’s a conversation,” he said. “It’s not just putting people anywhere because someone raises their hand. We want to make sure it’s going to be successful. That means looking at transportation, access to shopping. Those details are being fleshed out.”

Vitalius said more volunteers with available space in their homes or apartments are needed.

“It’s happening but we really need more volunteers,” he said.

The last time the city opened the Expo as a temporary shelter for asylum seekers was in 2019, when close to 450 asylum seekers came to Portland over the course of the summer.

Officials then faced a similar deadline to move people out of the arena by mid-August. Most received temporary or permanent housing or moved into home shares with families in the Greater Portland area. A small number who remained were moved to overflow space at the family shelter or a gymnasium at the Salvation Army.

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