Thierry Malasa pauses while describing the harrowing journey that led his family from the Congo to Maine, as the family prepared to move out of the Portland Expo, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Portland, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

PORTLAND, Maine – City officials say they are planning to use the Portland Expo once again to temporarily house asylum seekers.

According to the Portland City Council agenda, beginning sometime in April, staff plan to operate the Portland Expo as a temporary overnight shelter for asylum seekers.

“We will be seeking assistance from the community and community partners as part of this operation, and we expect its operation to continue until additional capacity is made available by a private partner,” the Portland City Council agenda said.

City officials say they also plan to make a property on Blueberry Road in Portland a temporary overnight shelter. This is expected to open around July. At this point, guests would relocate from the Portland Expo to this facility once it is completed.

People will start moving into the new Homeless Services Center in Portland next.

The facility will serve 208 unhoused individuals. The city says the Homeless Services Center is expected to be at full capacity immediately upon opening.

Maine has seen a large influx of asylum seekers since the start of the year, and Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, has asked the Biden administration to slow the number arriving in Portland due to lack of infrastructure.

Collins asked the Department of Homeland Security to verify that asylum seekers have a quote “safe and reliable destination” before letting them into the country.

At least 743 asylum seekers have arrived in Portland since January.

The Portland Expo was used as a temporary emergency shelter for more than 450 asylum seekers in the summer of 2019.

BDN writer Leela Stockley contributed to this report.