The South Portland City Council approved an order Tuesday that freed up $150,000 in state funds that will be used to help asylum-seeking migrants currently staying at one of the city’s hotels find permanent housing.
Over one hundred asylum seekers have been staying at the Howard Johnson hotel in South Portland on the taxpayers’ dime since the city approved a one-year contract with the hotel on June 27, 2023.
That contract, which turned the hotel into a temporary transitional housing facility for the migrants, included $200,000 in state funds set aside to reimburse the city for ambulance calls, General Assistance spending, or other expenditures.
The state, through the Maine State Housing Authority (MaineHousing), has been paying Catholic Charities of Maine to provide services for the asylum seekers staying at the hotel since the start of the contract.
As of Feb. 1, 2024, a total of 153 migrants — 71 adults and 82 children — are occupying 80 rooms at the Howard Johnson hotel.
The contract is set to expire on June 30, 2024, and during the South Portland City Council’s Jan. 9 meeting MaineHousing indicated that all the migrants currently staying at the hotel would be able to be relocated by the June 30 deadline.
MaineHousing also requested at the January Council meeting that $150,000 of the $200,000 of state funds placed in escrow be freed up so that it could be used to assist the migrants find permanent housing, including paying for the migrants’ rent deposits.
According to South Portland city staff, a minimal amount of the $200,000 set aside at the start of the contract has been used — just $1,200 in General Assistance costs and at least two ambulance calls.
The South Portland City Council voted to approve the order Tuesday, freeing up the $150,000 in state funds for “housing navigation services” for the migrants prior to June 30.