July 20, 2024

The city is considering a new ordinance to house migrants in private homes, churches and community centers

A city in Maine is considering issuing a new ordinance to allow private dwellings, churches and community centers to be turned into emergency homeless shelters, as the city is flooded with migrants.

The new ordinance would not force private owners in Westbrook to give over space to house the homeless, but it would allow homes or churches to become homeless shelters if the owners wished.

“What we can afford in this ordinance are shelters in single family homes which are deemed to be emergency shelter families,” said Jennie Franceschi, Westbrook Director of Planning and Code Enforcement .

“A church that has a room that they utilize for the purposes of baked bean suppers or educational or social needs could then take that room and make it into a shelter if the needs of the community necessitated it.”

At a City Council meeting on April 9, the official running Westbrook’s welfare program revealed that 90% to 95% of all welfare recipients in the city are now migrants, or “New Mainers” as he put it.

Cumberland County, of which Westbrook is a part, has seen massive increases in migrant arrivals in recent months.

Westbrook residents have expressed their worry that new measures to accommodate these migrants could impose a significant tax burden on private owners in the city.

“I do not believe the entire homeless shelter proposal is beneficial to the property taxpayers and residents of the city of Westbrook,” said resident Martin Malia, in an email that was read at a public meeting of the Planning Board.

“Last year, the property taxpayers were burdened with an 8.8 [%] tax increase,” he added, claiming that the new measures proposed would increase property taxes by a further 11.4%.  

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