In this April 10, 2023, file photo, asylum seekers arrive with their belongings at the Portland Expo Center in Portland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

As Portland prepares for the mid-August closing of a temporary emergency shelter for asylum seekers, the city is asking Gov. Janet Mills to support a recently proposed transitional housing plan, or activate the National Guard to set up a new shelter.

Around 270 asylum seekers are currently housed at the Expo building.

In a letter last Thursday, Portland’s mayor and city manager urged Mills to support a proposal to use Unity Environmental University’s campus as transitional housing for asylum seekers already in Maine, including the families currently staying at the Expo.

If that proposal doesn’t work out, the letter asks Mills to call up the National Guard to set up an alternative shelter.

While acknowledging that activating the National Guard is an emergency option that any governor would be “cautious to employ,” the letter states that the current homelessness crisis for asylum seekers and other unhoused people in Portland merits an emergency response.

The city previously brought up the possibility of using the National Guard in a letter to the governor in early June.

The new letter comes on the heels of a protest organized by asylum seekers staying at the Expo, who say they are frustrated with living conditions at the shelter and concerned about where they will go when it closes.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.