A new 179-bed shelter for single asylum seekers in Portland’s Riverton neighborhood is set to open on Nov. 29.
The construction of the shelter, located at 166 Riverside Industrial Parkway, was funded by a $4.59 million grant from the Maine State Housing Authority — a grant that will be partially reimbursed through the state’s General Assistance reimbursement program.
According to Portland Director of Health and Human Services Director Kristen Dow, the opening of the new shelter is expected to make an estimated 100-120 beds open at the Homeless Services Center (HSC).
City officials have stated that the Homeless Services Center is at capacity every night, which is one of the barriers to offering beds to individuals in the city’s large homeless encampments.
After beds at the new Riverton shelter are filled from asylum seekers currently staying at the HSC, the remaining beds will be filled with referrals from the city’s Prevention and Diversion team.
The city will purchase a new shuttle van for the transportation of asylum seekers to the shelter.
Maine Immigrants Rights Coalition is contracted to provide food for the Riverton shelter.
Portland Mayor-elect Mark Dion was the only City Councilor to vote against the new shelter in June.
“Many of those who called were under the impression that this initiative was directed at creating a derivative of the Homeless Services Center, another homeless shelter,” Dion said at a June City Council meeting.
“There’s been very little understanding the intent was to address the unhoused immigrants who’ve arrived in the city, and even that concept for us has evolved from immigrant families to now unhoused immigrant males,” he said.
“We need to clarify that there are two significant categories of unhoused individuals in this community,” he added. “There are those who are unhoused by virtue of their refugee status, and there are those that are unhoused by individual circumstance, and they need different kinds of services.”