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In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    John Shippee and Roux Lobozzo sit amongst their coworkers at the Portland Family Shelter during their daily morning meeting on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. In the meeting the staff runs through their tentative schedule for the day. With asylum seeking families showing up on a consistent, but sporadic, basis the shelter staff never really know what they day will bring.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    A new apartment building being constructed on Chestnut Street seen from a room at Portland’s family shelter. The shelter only has space for only 42 families. Dozens and dozens more are staying in local hotels while they await their immigration status or more permanent housing, or both.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Roux Lobozzo leads a Rent Smart class alongside her co-worker Larissa Gahimbare, at the Portland Family Shelter on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. The two employees work with the families after they move out of the shelter and into permanent housing in order to help them through any issues that may arise. The class is offered to the families that have moved back into the shelter from the motel and are hopefully next in line to be housed. A Press Herald reporter and photographer were allowed to show city staff with the condition that no asylum seeker would be identifiable in the photos or story.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Amber Bowman, program manager at the Portland Family Shelter, does the morning room checks on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. The staff does room checks to make sure all the overflow rooms are clean and ready for any families that might come that day, as well as checking in on families who are staying at the shelter to make sure they are ok.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe | of | Share this photo

    Asylum seeking families who just arrived in Portland wait outside of the family shelter to be let inside to meet with staff and begin some of the new arrival paperwork.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    A teenager holds her little sister as she and her family wait outside of the family shelter with all of their luggage after presenting there in the afternoon on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. She is a part of a family of five, like most other asylum seeker families, came to Maine directly from the Southern border after being released from detention. Three families showed up all at the same time that afternoon, two of whom had met traveling and were friends.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Two sets of parents sit with Portland family shelter employee John Shippee, far left, as he uses a language line interpreter to speak to them in Portuguese. When a family arrives the employees gather information on who is in the family, where they came from and how they arrived in Maine as well as getting them information on general assistance and telling them the rules of the shelter.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Two little girls who were friends on the journey to the United States are reunited on the steps of the family shelter. One girl was already staying at the shelter with her family when the other one arrived.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    John Shippee walks the family of five over to one of the overflow rooms at the shelter. The family left Africa and traveled from Brazil, up through South America, Central America and crossed over into the United States through Mexico. They have a three daughters with them, ranging in age from 16 to a 1 year old.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    John Shippee and Esther Rukundo work in the office at the Portland Family Shelter after getting the three families that arrived that day settled into their rooms. Shippee was working on an email to General Assistance letting them know to expect the family of five that he processed.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    The father of the family of five walks back to the General Assistance office. He will return to the office first thing in the morning and stand in line to get an appointment that day. Once they apply for general assistance the family can then move to the motel, freeing up the overflow room for new arriving families.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    The family of five is led into the room they will be staying in for the night. The next day they will be sent over to one of the motels in South Portland, where dozens of other families are staying.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    The father of the family of five walks back to the Portland Family Shelter where they are staying for the night.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Ageno Cap, left, and Nancy Dall work the evening shift at the Portland Family Shelter on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. Families can arrive to the shelter at any time, day or night.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe | of | Share this photo

    A pregnant mother and her daughter walk back to their room at a motel in South Portland on Thursday, October 21, 2021. The motel is one of two in South Portland that are being used to house the overflow of families from the Family Shelter and the overflow of singles from Oxford Street.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Marcel Selemani speaks with an asylum seeker who came to him with a question at the motel. Selemani is sought out by many of the families when word gets out he is at the motel. He speaks French and Lingala and is the major point of contact with most of the asylum seeker families.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Chelsea Hoskins, the resettlement coordinator for Portland, and Marcel Selemani knock on a family’s motel room door. The two were going around to every family staying at the motel gathering the different clothing sizes so they can begin work on sourcing winter clothing for them.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    The pregnant mother sits at a table with Marcel Selemani in the lobby of the motel as he helps her with some of her paperwork while her daughter watches a kids show. Selemani had to deliver mail to the woman and then she came down to speak to him about DHHS paperwork as well as a leak in the family’s motel room. The family is large and some members of the family have to sleep on the floor, therefore a leak making the carpet wet is a big issue for them.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Marcel Selemani, center, and another man who works with an agency that helps with the asylum seekers [he declined to be identified], look through the list of family names picking out the newly arrived families they need to visit at the other motel housing asylum seekers in South Portland on Monday, October 25, 2021.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    A little boy walks out of his family’s motel room while Marcel Selemani talks with his mother. This South Portland motel houses mostly families because many of the rooms are small suites and have a kitchenette. Selemani came the motel that morning to connect with the handful of new families that recently arrived and help them start their paperwork to apply for DHHS benefits, such as SNAP.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Marcel Selemani meets with the mother of the family with three daughters that arrived at the shelter the previous week and pointed out an issue with the family’s immigration paperwork, letting them they needed to get it sorted out with immigration before they can apply for DHHS benefits. Selemani has to help almost every family with paperwork and reading their mail since most do not speak or read English.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    The middle daughter of the family of five that arrived the previous week walks out of the door of their motel room in South Portland on Monday, October 25, 2021. The family could be staying in the room for the next several months while they try to find housing in an incredibly difficult market. The school-aged children will very quickly be enrolled in school in South Portland.

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    Mike Guthrie, right, speaks on the phone to Joanna Testa while he and Marcel Selemani begin to a family’s belongings from their motel room in South Portland on Friday, November 5, 2021. City staff spent they day moving families over to a better housing option in Old Orchard Beach, which would also free up rooms in the South Portland and Portland motels. Testa was coordinating with them because she had the mother of the family in her office because there was an issue with their paperwork.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Joanna Testa talks with Marcel Selemani and director Mike Guthrie outside of her office at the shelter about the family of three they were planning on moving to Old Orchard Beach. The family, who came to Maine from Angola, arrived at the shelter in the middle of the night and therefore some of their paper work still needed to be filled out, Testa discovered.

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    The family of three arrives at the motel they will be staying at for the foreseeable future in Old Orchard Beach.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Esther Rukundo, left, talks with the parents of the family of three after their belongings were moved into a motel in Old Orchard Beach. The rooms have a true kitchenette, eating area, and some have actual separated bedrooms, which most did not have in their previous motels. They asked Rukundo about where they would be able to buy groceries, and she informed them that the city arranged to have vendors come to the motel with groceries.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Esther Rukundo looks over the list of families who are moving to the new motels in Old Orchard Beach. Shelter staff made sure to only pick families who did not have school aged children so that they wouldn’t have to worry about school transportation to South Portland.

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    A woman who just arrived at the shelter with her son sits at a table in the overflow room she will spend the night. The woman and her son walked to the shelter from the Greyhound station in Portland because they arrived with no money left.

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    In photos: Portland’s Asylum Seekers - Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Marcel Selemani walks to a recently arrived family’s room at a motel in South Portland. The Selemani himself was once an asylum seeker and e came to the United States in 2016. He stayed the first six weeks at Portland's Oxford Street shelter for homeless adults. “These are all places of unrest, of war that we are leaving,” Selemani said. “And we bring our dreams with us. All of us.”

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