South Portland hotels will continue to house homeless people

Two South Portland hotels that were scheduled to stop housing homeless people by the end of June will continue to provide emergency shelters indefinitely, officials said Wednesday.

New Gen Hospitality Management had already extended its contract with MaineHousing once before, after owner Suresh Gali said the Days Inn and Comfort Inn would stop housing homeless people by the end of May.

Gali had responded to public safety concerns he had heard from business owners near the Maine Mall, who complained at a community meeting in February about the intoxicated and harassing behavior of some hotel guests .

Efforts by local and state authorities to open an alternative emergency shelter have so far failed, so the two hotels will continue to accommodate Portland’s Oxford Street Shelter overflow well past the deadline for Thursday.

Portland City Manager Danielle West and South Portland City Manager Scott Morelli released a joint statement Wednesday explaining the situation to the Press Herald.

“While we hoped to find other arrangements at this time, homeless people will continue to receive emergency shelter at the two contracted hotels in South Portland,” they said. “It is proposed that this arrangement will continue until the new shelter opens in Portland in early 2023.”

The two hotels accommodate about 280 indigent people. Portland is building a $25 million, 208-bed homeless shelter and services center at 654 Riverside St. on the outskirts of town. The facility is intended to replace the Oxford Street Shelter, which can serve 150 people.

Gali did not respond to an email Wednesday requesting an interview for this story.

In the meantime, Portland officials, state agencies and social service providers are working on a plan to provide enhanced support services and security at both hotels, city officials said.

The plan will be provided to the South Portland City Council when it holds a public hearing on hotel licensing to address community concerns about public safety and increased service calls generated by hotel guests. That hearing will likely take place in August, they said.

Portland officials also continue to work with regional and state partners “to find emergency accommodation solutions that do not include the use of hotels because it is an expensive and inefficient way to provide these emergency services. support, and homeless members of our community are best served in congregational settings,” city managers said.

City and state officials were working on a plan to open a temporary emergency shelter at an undisclosed location in Portland using state supplemental budget money. That plan fell through this month after it was determined that the city’s new green building code would require several months of costly renovations because it would be considered a change of use.

State officials involved in the alternative accommodation effort did not respond to requests for comment.

Portland has provided emergency shelter to a record number of people over the past year. Currently, 506 single adults are being accommodated at the Oxford Street shelter and area hotels.

Additionally, 20 families (59 people) are staying at the City Family Shelter and 270 families (943 people) are staying at area hotels, including the Quality Inn and Howard Johnson in South Portland. Most are asylum seekers from Central African countries.

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