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Hundreds of asylum seekers will need to leave South Portland hotels by end of June

The outside of a hotel at night with a neon sign that reads Howard Johnson on the wall.
Ari Snider
Dozens of asylum-seeking families are staying at the Howard Johnson hotel in South Portland, pictured here in 2022. The hotel is one of seven in South Portland that will have to stop operating as a de facto emergency shelter by June 30.

Hundreds of asylum seekers could face eviction by June 30 from seven South Portland hotels that have been serving as de facto emergency shelters during the pandemic.

The city set that deadline in early April, alongside a measure allowing smaller shelters to be set up in the city, saying it was necessary to address health and safety concerns at the hotels and to prevent the costs from shifting to local taxpayers after federal COVID relief funding runs out.

In a statement released at the time, the city said it chose the deadline to allow students living in motels to complete their school year.

Claude Rwaganje, with ProsperityME, said his group is trying to help the families, but said there are no immediate solutions.

"We don't know really what's going to happen, but we're trying to calm [the families] down. But we don't have a solution either," he said.

With other emergency shelters in the area already at capacity, Rwaganje said it's not clear where these families will go.

"If I had somewhere to send them, I would definitely do that," he said. "But I don't."

Rwaganje said some asylum seeker families have already received eviction notices and are preparing to mount a legal challenge.

The city said nearly 300 unhoused individuals, mostly asylum seekers, are currently staying in South Portland hotels, down from a high of around 1,000 at different points over the last several years.