Since late Might, rumors have been circulating concerning the former Unity School campus changing into transitional housing for asylum seekers. On June 29, a proposal was lastly submitted by Portland officers to the state. Since then, extra questions have arisen as Portland pushes for a call and city and school officers look forward to an in depth proposal from the state.
Right here’s what we all know concerning the plan for housing asylum seekers on the Unity Environmental College campus.
What’s occurring with Unity Environmental College’s campus in Unity?
Unity Environmental College has transitioned to primarily on-line schooling choices for the reason that begin of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas enrollment has shot up, only some dozen college students are presently dwelling on campus, in line with college officers.
The faculty campus positioned within the small Maine city of Unity, with a inhabitants round 2,300, is being thought of as a possible spot to supply transitional housing for as many as 600 asylum seekers presently dwelling in Portland.
A proposal submitted to the state final month stresses a right away want for housing choices because the variety of asylum seekers dwelling at shelters in Portland continues to rise, and a serious emergency shelter is about to shut in mid-August. The reply, officers mentioned, may very well be to make use of empty school dorms on the Unity Environmental College– previously Unity School — to deal with asylum seekers and relieve stress on town’s overflowing homeless shelters.
Who needs to make use of it for housing for asylum seekers?
Portland officers and immigration advocates help the thought. They are saying the prevailing infrastructure is a stable foundation to supply instant reduction to Portland by changing the largely unoccupied dorms and pre-equipped eating amenities into transitional housing.
The Portland mayor and metropolis supervisor known as on the Mills administration final Thursday to help the proposal or to authorize the Nationwide Guard to arrange one other emergency shelter for asylum seekers. A spokesman for the governor informed the Related Press the workplace was not contemplating calling the Nationwide guard.
What has been proposed?
The Higher Portland Council of Governments submitted the proposal to MaineHousing and the governor’s workplace on June 12 to supply transitional housing on the Unity Environmental College campus for as many as 600 asylum seekers
Belinda Ray, the council’s director of strategic partnerships, says the aim is to cut back stress on Portland’s already overflowing shelters and supply steady housing and companies for as much as on the Unity campus location.
What’s the August deadline?
Metropolis officers opened the doorways of the Portland Expo middle in April as a short lived emergency shelter to deal with the growing variety of asylum seekers arriving in Portland earlier this yr.. However metropolis officers set a aim for Aug. 16 to shut the shelter with a purpose to honor the middle’s fall occasion schedule.
Round 270 asylum seekers are presently housed there and shall be in instant want of latest shelter. Final week, some asylum seekers protested circumstances on the emergency shelter.
What must occur for Unity School for use for housing for asylum seekers?
Earlier than any asylum seekers can be delivered to Unity, metropolis and state officers, in addition to Unity city representatives and officers from the college, must get collectively to debate the proposal additional, Ray mentioned.
College and city officers have mentioned they haven’t obtained a proper proposal from the state.
One other key a part of making it work is making certain that companies like transportation, authorized help and eating are all capable of be offered on the campus with minimal impression to the city, Ray mentioned. Though Portland’s Aug. 16 deadline is quick approaching, Ray hopes a call might be made earlier than then.
“I’d like to see this transfer as shortly as doable, understanding that it may well solely achieve success if we do guarantee these sources are on web site … in order that the impression in town is minimal,” she mentioned
How a lot wouldn’t it value?
The estimated value for offering transitional housing for the following yr is round $7.8 million, which covers leasing the buildings and offering meals, utilities and different companies, officers from the Higher Portland Council of Governments mentioned.
Who would pay for it?
Any determination to allocate funding for the transitional housing challenge would in the end be made by MaineHousing, the state company overseeing reasonably priced housing choices, mentioned Ben Goodman, a spokesperson for the governor’s workplace.
Has this ever been completed earlier than?
Though comparable concepts have been mentioned previously, Ray says the state hasn’t ever completed one thing like this earlier than. However now that it’s on the desk, she mentioned different universities in Maine and across the nation which have shifted towards distant studying might need to take into account it.
“Many schools have elevated distant participation, not all of them have had all of their inhabitants return to campus,” Ray mentioned. “There’s a housing disaster, so wherever we are able to discover housing is helpful.”
Is Unity Environmental College on board with this plan?
The college administration isn’t against the thought, however they’re nonetheless ready on a plan from the state.
“Unity Environmental College is keen to assist if there’s a correct plan in place with the state, city and advocacy teams,” mentioned college President Melik Peter Khoury.
The faculty is in a singular place the place “the vast majority of our college students select distance studying,” Khoury mentioned, and low residency means the varsity does have “underutilized capability and infrastructure that may very well be used as transitional housing.”
However for now, Khoury mentioned it will be untimely to make any choices with out a concrete plan laid out for the varsity.
What’s Unity’s stance on the proposal?
City representatives mentioned previously they’re ready for a full, detailed proposal on the potential plan. Some neighborhood members raised considerations at selectboard conferences that an inflow of latest residents would probably put pressure in town, however Unity nonetheless hasn’t heard something from the state, in line with Selectman Tony Avila.
Who makes the final word determination on this?
The state continues to be reviewing the proposal, Goodman mentioned, and there isn’t a transparent timeline on when a closing determination shall be introduced.
What occurs subsequent?
For now, the state is continuous to overview the proposal, the governor’s spokesperson mentioned.
If that is to maneuver ahead, there’ll should be an settlement between the state, the college and the city of Unity, Ray mentioned.
“If that is completed proper, if we get all of those sources in place, it is a nice alternative for these new Mainers coming to our state, it’s an excellent alternative for Unity and it’s an excellent alternative for the state of Maine,” Ray mentioned.