Portland officials told the asylum seekers from Sanford they cannot promise them a place to stay.
A group of asylum seekers speak with Mike Guthrie (in blue), director of Portland's family shelter, and an interpreter, in colorful suit on Wednesday afternoon after disembarking from a bus from Sanford. Guthrie told the group the city could not promise shelter space for single adults in the group. Credit: Ari Snider / Maine Public

Thirty asylum seekers, mostly from Angola, were bused from Sanford to Portland Wednesday, as Sanford struggles to support more than 100 immigrants who arrived in the city unannounced since last week.

Some of the Sanford arrivals had previously left shelters in Portland and were able to return there, but others said they didn’t have anywhere to go.

Many of the people on the bus slept outside Sanford City Hall on Tuesday night. When morning came, they said they were told by Sanford police to board a bus to Portland.

Portland was able to take in two families who were placed at the Expo, which is currently operating as an emergency shelter for asylum seekers.

But Portland’s family shelter director, Mike Guthrie, told a group of childless adults the city could not promise them a place to stay. Instead, they were directed to the city’s prevention and diversion program.

“And if you have anybody you can contact in the community where you could stay, they could help call those people to explain what’s going on and to see if they can get someone else to take you in if the shelter is full,” he told the group.

Guthrie also told them he had not been contacted by Sanford in advance of their arrival.

Several asylum seekers said they didn’t know anyone in Portland and would try to find a church to take them in.

Prior to this bus arriving, other asylum seeker families who had left shelters in Portland after hearing rumors of better housing options in Sanford had since returned to those shelters.

At an emergency meeting Tuesday night, Sanford City Manager Steven Buck told the City Council that staff were vetting the asylum seekers who had arrived in Sanford to see if they had left housing or shelter options in other municipalities, which would make them ineligible to receive general assistance in Sanford.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.