At an emergency meeting today at the Greater Portland Council of Governments, every member of the Metro Regional Coalition agreed to work individually with local developers and private property owners to find vacant apartments or suitable empty facilities that could house 100 families. Committee members also agreed to ask their city and town councils to contribute money to nonprofit agencies assisting the asylum seekers.
The Greater Portland Council of Governments will take a leadership role in organizing the regional response to finding long-term housing for the asylum seekers. GPCOG will also coordinate the creation of a program that will allow families to host asylum seekers in their homes. The agency will distribute a list of nonprofits that need assistance, and city and town managers will coordinate financial contributions to assure that a variety of nonprofits receive money.
“We are all in this together,” said Kristina Egan, GPCOG executive director. “This isn’t just a Portland issue. This emergency is a strain on the region, but it’s also an opportunity for the region as well.”
More than 220 of the asylum seekers are being housed at the Portland Expo. The latest physical count of those at the Expo as of this morning is 223 people. The total computer intake count is 292. These numbers represent 87 families.
The City has received almost $400,000 in donations through its text to donate program, Paypal, and checks in the mail. From just the text to donate program, more than 2,500 people have donated from 30 states and more than 226 towns in Maine.
Scarborough Town Councilor Bill Donovan, chair of the Metro Regional Coalition, said he is encouraged that so many communities in Greater Portland and across Maine are reaching out to help the asylum seekers and the City of Portland.
“We look forward as neighbors of Portland to supporting them as this matter unfolds in the months ahead,” Donovan said.
Portland City Manager Jon Jennings said he is “so thankful for the productive conversations we had this morning with the Metro Regional Coalition. We asked for the assistance of our neighbors in finding permanent housing solutions, and I was very pleased with the positive reaction we received.”
The Metro Regional Coalition is a longstanding organization within the Greater Portland Council of Governments comprised of Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Gorham, Portland, Scarborough, South Portland and Westbrook. Municipal managers and councilors meet monthly to address priority issues facing their communities.
The Greater Portland Council of Governments provides land-use planning and economic development services to 25 cities and towns in Cumberland County.
Egan said some towns in the region that are not part of the coalition have also expressed interest in offering help and that she will be reaching out to all the agency’s member municipalities to coordinate a response.
She said she is heartened by the ability of municipalities to work together. She said their response to this crisis makes her hopeful that the region can tackle other long-term issues, such as the need to create more workforce housing in the region.