The 53 asylum-seeking households – 81 adults and 95 children – living at Howard Johnson in South Portland should all be moved into permanent housing by the June 30 deadline, according to the operators of the transitional shelter.

MaineHousing, ProsperityME and Catholic Charities Maine told the South Portland City Council Tuesday that their collaborated effort at the Main Street hotel that started last June has had positive results.

As of August, 84 households were staying at the hotel. Since then, 18 have been moved to permanent housing, with six more scheduled for apartments next month. Since August, some households have moved out of Maine or have left the hotel because they are no longer eligible for services, and more are expected to continue doing so. The organizations project about 42 households will still be living at the hotel by Feb. 15.

“We recognize that there are still 42 households that would need a resolution by June 30, and that is not nothing,” said Greg Payne, the state’s senior advisor on housing policy.

“The team is working proactively on a number of opportunities,” he said. “We expect that by June 30 Howard Johnson will be empty and ready for its traditional use.”

All of the households now at the hotel have applied for asylum, and members of 44 households have applied for employment approval with 36 receiving it, according to information presented at the meeting. Members of roughly 57%, or 30 of the households, at Howard Johnson, are now employed. At the same time, members of 31 households are participating in English language classes and members of 36 households have completed tenancy workshops.


The council agreed in June 2023 to allow the state to run a consolidated shelter at the Howard Johnson until June 30 of this year. Prior to the agreement, 367 people were staying in six hotels or motels across South Portland. At one point, over 1,000 people were being sheltered in South Portland hotels, with 800 in residence one year ago.

Howard Johnson shelter representatives fielded questions from City Councilors at the meeting on Tuesday.

“What is the game plan if we have 30 families still left June 30?” Councilor Richard Matthews asked. “The city of South Portland has already spent millions – and I mean millions – of dollars … That’s the question that we should be looking at.”

“Honestly, we’re a little more focused on making sure there aren’t,” Payne responded.

Matthews pressed for a more direct answer.

“We will make sure we comply with the agreement,” Payne said. “We have come to an agreement with the city. We will meet it.”


The three programs found their rhythm in October, representatives said. Catholic Charities Maine began providing case management services, such as referrals to legal services and benefit programs. They also began coordinating onsite services, such as English classes and pre-employment skill development. Meanwhile, ProsperityME and the state were able to focus their attention on helping people navigate housing barriers.

“There are higher barriers facing asylum seekers than refugees,” said Julie Allaire, a Catholic Charities Maine program officer who oversees refugee and asylum-seeker programs. “You know what those are; you know that they cannot work until they get their employment documents.”

Additional barriers, especially when it comes to housing, are a lack of a credit score and rental history, presenters said.

“When we find these systems’ barriers, we’re able to work with the state to address them,” Allaire said.

Emergency services calls to hotels dropped by 37% between 2022 and 2023, according to City Manager Scott Morelli, and neither the police nor fire department have significant concerns with the current call level of roughly 10 per month to Howard Johnson.

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