The housing crisis continues to take a toll in Maine, including on asylum seekers and the homeless.
Now, the Comfort Inn in Scarborough no longer wants to shelter about 100 homeless people and has begun issuing eviction notices.
The Opportunity Alliance had been renting all 60 rooms there to house individuals and families experiencing homelessness, but the owner now wants out of the shelter business.
“We have the police there two, three times a day,” Scarborough Town Council Chair John Cloutier said.
Scarborough police have responded to 350 calls and nearly 420 offenses at the Comfort Inn on Route 1 this year, many for drug overdoses.
“There was a lot of stuff going on with the overdoses,” said Priscilla Almodovar, who is currently homeless and staying at the hotel.
The Opportunity Alliance placed Almodovar at the Comfort Inn after she lost her job and her apartment.
While some homeless people there are critical of being forced out, Almodovar said the hotel took them in when they needed a place to live.
“The town of Scarborough and the Comfort Inn has helped us as much as possible,” Almodovar said. “They did their part. Now, it’s our part, our time, to be independent.”
The problem is that those who work with the homeless said there are few places for them to go.
“I certainly don’t want to create any false promise that we have a plan for everybody,” Mary Cook with The Opportunity Alliance said.
Cook oversees the emergency rental assistance program for The Opportunity Alliance.
“It’s a lot about relocating people potentially to other hotels,” Cook said. “Very few will likely get into apartments moving from this just due to the lack of affordable housing.”
Cloutier said between asylum seekers and the homeless, the numbers are too big for Portland to handle.
“What’s happening now is those service centers are overwhelmed,” Cloutier said. “So they’re being pushed out to the suburbs.”
The town now requires the Comfort Inn to have on-site security, social workers and counselors, but Cloutier said it’s now time to get a transition plan in place.
“The owner wants to move back to typical hotel operations, but they also realize that this isn’t the best way to house this population,” Cloutier said.
The Opportunity Alliance said a warm bed is better than no bed at all.
“We do very much worry about what this could mean for the people at the hotel,” Cook said. “And especially headed into winter months, where people cannot survive outside. And we have families that are sleeping in tents at this point.”
Almodovar is one of the lucky ones. She’s already found a new job and an apartment.
“We should have our own jobs,” Almodovar said. “We should have our own homes, so we can go back to living a normal life.”
The Comfort Inn sent notices to vacate to people in 20 rooms this week. It will send 20 more in October and the final 20 notices in November.
The Opportunity Alliance will prioritize children, the elderly and people with special needs as the group tries to find them new homes.