PORTLAND (WGME) – Dozens of families are hoping to help the influx of immigrant families find more permanent housing.
City officials in Portland said that as of Monday morning, 256 people are staying at The Expo and that 332 have checked into the emergency shelter since June 9, almost a month ago.
Those families need to be out of The Expo by the end of the summer but a new program could help them transition much sooner. Volunteers are quickly working to move them off cots and into homes.
“The Expo seems to be cramped and in the middle of a city and I think some of these folks might appreciate a more rural environment,” said Michael Lyle, one of at least 25 families who volunteered to open up their homes to asylum seekers.
“I’m a single dad with three bedrooms, large bedroom on this side, and was just looking at it and said, ‘Well, geez, people could stay here,” he said.
The initiative was started by the Greater Portland Council of Governments.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for people that want to host to learn a little more about our new neighbors and we think of course its important for our new neighbors to get integrated into our community,” said Kristina Egan, the council’s executive director.
The program hopes to house families until they can get on their feet, which could take upward of six months.
“I don’t consider myself liberal. I don’t consider myself religious. I just consider myself a human — that when you look at their situation and you hear their story it’s very compelling,” Lyle said.
Many of the asylum seekers have left war-torn nations and traveled thousands of miles in search of for stability but hosts can expect cultural challenges.
“The idea of having a language barrier be the reason why I could not do this seemed like a really insignificant reason compared to how much effort they put into getting here,” Lyle said.
So far, the placement process has yet to start but local families like Lyle’s are ready to do their part
“I see the benefit being that I learn about a new culture … That my kids learn about a new culture and they realize that while cultures are different, one of the things we all have in common is the idea of family … Taking care of your kids,” Lyle said.
Organizers said they hope to start pairing hosts with families in the next few weeks and are setting up guidelines and background checks
SUPER:/OPENING HOMES TO ASYLUM SEEKERS/PORTLAND