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Portland plans to close Expo shelter for asylum seekers in August

The city of Portland announced plans to convert the Expo into a temporary overnight shelter for asylum seeker families. City officials said the Expo will serve as a bridge until a new, 280-bed shelter is slated to open this summer.
Ari Snider
Maine Public
The Expo has been operating as a temporary emergency shelter since April 12th.

The city of Portland is planning to stop operating the Expo building as an emergency shelter for asylum seekers in mid-August. The announcement comes at a moment of heightened uncertainty for asylum seekers, as several hotels in South Portland are also planning to cease operating as de facto shelters.

Portland opened the Expo as an emergency shelter in April, and it quickly reached its capacity of 300 individuals.

In a memo to the city council published today, the city's Health and Human Services Director Kristen Dow said the Expo shelter was always intended to be a temporary solution, and will close on Aug. 16. She said that will leave staff just over nine weeks to rehouse families currently at the shelter.

Dow also said no new guests will be admitted to the Expo after Monday, June 5.

At the same time, hundreds of asylum seekers staying at South Portland motels are facing eviction as the properties prepare for a June 30 deadline to cease operating as de facto shelters.

More than 1,000 asylum seekers from Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti and other countries have arrived in the Portland area since January. Many say they are fleeing violence and political repression in their home countries.