Avesta provides affordable housing to asylum seekers experiencing homelessness

Angola. Afghanistan. South Sudan. Rwanda. Burundi. Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Asylum seekers in Maine come from these countries and more. They have different beliefs, different cultures, different backgrounds. But they have at least one thing in common: They have been forced to flee their home countries. Now they are in Maine, eager to begin a new phase in their lives and hopeful for a better future.

Last month, Avesta Housing processed 1,037 applications for apartments at West End II, our new development in South Portland. The majority of applicants are asylum seekers who are homeless and living in motels or shelters.

We held open office hours multiple times throughout the application week to meet with and support the influx of people who needed help applying. Staff assisted with applications, and some served as interpreters for applicants who spoke no or limited English.

It was good to engage with members of the community again, said Applicant Services Manager Emily Pelletier. And it was gratifying to know they were helping those in need of affordable housing.

“I think I can speak for my team when I say that what we are taking away from this experience is a real wish we had even more apartments for these folks,” Pelletier said.

The massive number of applications is indicative of the great need for safe, quality, affordable housing in Maine and New Hampshire, said Avesta Housing President & CEO Rebecca Hatfield.

“The sheer volume of applications for West End II is an alarm signal that we must be purposeful and creative in our approach to meeting the needs not just of asylum seekers experiencing homelessness, but also of the many others who come to us every day seeking an affordable home,” Hatfield said. “We currently have more than 700 new homes in the development pipeline, and we are actively working to acquire and build more in the years to come. With the dedication and support of our staff, partners, and supporters, we will continue to seek creative ways to help ensure that everyone has a place to call home.”