After months of increased crime connected to hotels serving as temporary shelters, South Portland officials are looking to crack down once again.
Calls to police and fire are up in a massive way, frustrating residents and business owners near the hotels.
City leaders had enough this spring and told the people running some hotels they had to make changes to address crime.
They said the problems of things like drugs, assaults, theft and harassment continue, and now the council is looking to put more conditions on the hotel licenses.
The hotels are a safe haven for hundreds of homeless people and asylum seekers, but calls to police and fire have increased dramatically.
For example, before the pandemic, there were 31 calls on average per year to the Comfort Inn on Maine Mall Road. This year, there are already more than 275.
A lawyer for the hotel defended their actions in a meeting with the City Council back in April.
It’s now August, and people are still living in the hotels, saying they have nowhere else to go.
In a notice to the city’s website, leaders say the call volumes and types are “so significant” that police and fire have “substantial public safety concerns” if things continue under the status quo.
The city says it has similar concerns about emergency calls elsewhere. That’s why the council will also consider putting conditions on the Casco Bay Hotel’s license, which it hasn’t considered before.
Residents and neighbors have compassion for those staying at the hotel.
“I think the homeless situation in our country is devastating,” South Portland resident Joan Merritt Krause said. “Shouldn’t be. Should not be at all.”
City officials said they’re not considering revoking the hotel licenses so no one is displaced.
However, councilors will consider requirements to reduce the burden on emergency services.
Hotel managers, the city manager and city clerk did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment.
The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.