Portland plans to open Expo Building as temporary shelter for asylum seekers
The city of Portland is planning to convert the Expo building into a temporary shelter for asylum seekers next month, part of an effort to find emergency housing for new arrivals.
City officials said it will help buy some time before another, longer-term shelter opens this summer.
The Expo center, which is home to the Maine Celtics basketball team, is slated to open as an emergency shelter as soon as April 10, and could house around 300 people.
During the summer of 2019, the city converted the Expo into a temporary shelter for several hundred asylum seekers.
This time, Kristen Dow, Portland's director of Health and Human Services, said the Expo will meet an important, immediate need.
"It's going to provide emergency shelter with wraparound services, while other longer term solutions are being worked on," she said.
One of those longer term solutions is a new, 280-bed shelter proposed by the real estate company Developers Collaborative and the nonprofit Center for Regional Prosperity, which is slated to open this summer.
Kevin Bunker, founder of Developers Collaborative, said the plan is to get the facility up and running as soon as possible.
"We think we have about eight weeks of construction," he said. "If we can start construction sometime in April, that would put us online sometime in June."
Bunker said his company would then work with a social service organization to provide on-site support to residents.
That shelter is supported in part by $4 million in state funds from this winter's emergency heating and housing package.
Since January, nearly 900 asylum seekers, primarily from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have arrived in Portland in need of emergency shelter.