Influx of asylum seekers overwhelms Maine

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Sub-Saharan asylum seekers have overwhelmed a city’s ability to house them.

Officials in Portland, Maine, have created overflow shelters at the Salvation Army and the YMCA to accommodate nearly 170 people, the Portland Press Herald reports. Most of the asylum seekers are fleeing Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Many have arrived surprised that the city is no longer operating a 24-hour shelter, according to city officials.

The converted gymnasiums provide only overnight shelter, so families must seek daytime services at other locations in the community.

“We have a lot of people arriving in flip-flops and shorts,” said Jeff Tardif, director of the city’s family shelter.

The City Council is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss options in case asylum seekers continue to arrive faster than they can be housed.

“Right now, my sense is everything is full,” Mayor Kate Snyder said. “I don’t get the sense there is panic. There’s an eagerness on both the staff and the council side to have that discussion.”