Nonprofits call on state to coordinate housing and other services for asylum seekers


A group of nearly 80 nonprofits and community organizations are calling on the state to take immediate action to respond to an influx of families seeking asylum in Maine, including opening emergency sites to provide food , shelter and care for the urgent medical needs of new arrivals.

In a letter dated Friday, the group said the state was facing a humanitarian crisis with asylum-seeking families continuing to arrive weekly in Portland and the city saying earlier this month that it would not could no longer guarantee housing. “A coordinated statewide effort is needed to meet the moment,” the letter said.

The letter is addressed to members of the Maine congressional delegation, Governor Janet Mills, Portland Mayor Kate Snyder and other elected officials. Organizations that signed the letter include the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, the ACLU of Maine, Catholic Charities of Maine’s Refugee and Immigration Services, and 76 other organizations and nonprofits.

The group cites coordinated state action as its highest priority. Their recommendations include the immediate opening of emergency sites to provide shelter, food and emergency medical care; the creation of a working group to coordinate services for asylum seekers; and human and financial resources for the City of Portland.

The group also recommends that the state research best practices from other states that serve asylum seekers and establish a permanent state office to assist in the resettlement of asylum seekers and other underserved populations.

Lindsay Crete, spokeswoman for Mills, said in an email Monday that the governor’s office had received the letter and would review and review the recommendations.

In its recent program of budget changes, Crete said the governor had allocated $22 million to create an emergency housing relief fund in MaineHousing to help address homelessness, including providing assistance to rental or suitable accommodation for people staying in hotels. The supplemental budget also includes $750,000 in grants through the Department of Health and Human Services for community organizations to support comprehensive service delivery.

Additionally, Crete said the governor has asked Greg Payne, its senior housing adviser, and Maine DHHS to work closely with MaineHousing, Portland city officials and other municipalities to ensure that existing resources are maximized and that services are coordinated between municipalities.

“The administration will remain engaged with the City of Portland, the Legislature and the Maine congressional delegation going forward,” Crete said.

This story will be updated.

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