Private Homes Could Serve as Shelters Amid City’s Migrant Crisis

By: Georgia | Published: May 24, 2024

Westbrook, a city in Maine, is making waves with a bold ordinance to house homeless migrants in private homes. 

This city is looking at innovative housing solutions like turning private residences and community spaces into shelters. 

"New Mainers" and the Welfare Equation

One city official dubbed the migrants as “new Mainers,” noting they consume 90-95% of Westbrook’s welfare benefits. 

Colorful graffiti on a wall in a park with a gazebo and bench

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The proposed housing options include not just homes but also churches and community centers.


Volunteer Spirit: A Key to Westbrook's Plan

Private homes and churches aren’t required to shelter migrants unless they opt in

A large, elegant private home surrounded by lush greenery

Source: Aubrey Odom/Unsplash

The proposed ordinance respects the autonomy of homeowners and religious organizations, making participation in the housing program voluntary.

Emergency Shelter Transformations Ahead

Jennie Franceschi, Westbrook’s director of planning and code enforcement explained the idea. 

The entrance sign to Westbrook City Hall surrounded by landscaped bushes

Source: Wikimedia Commons

She said, “What we can afford in this ordinance are shelters in single-family homes which are deemed to be [for] emergency shelter families.”

Use of Churches

Churches in Westbrook may convert rooms typically used for social gatherings into shelters if needed. 

Interior view of a church with rows of wooden pews and stained glass windows

Source: Grace Galligan/Unsplash

This adaptive use is designed to meet community needs in times of crisis, providing immediate relief by utilizing existing spaces effectively.

Basic Living Skills

Officials in Westbrook have found it necessary to educate migrants on basic tasks such as using a thermostat. 

A modern thermostat showing a temperature setting on a wall.

Source: Dan LeFebvre/Unsplash

This education is essential for ensuring that the migrants can live comfortably and responsibly in their temporary housing situations.


The Taxpayer's Burden? A Local's Concern

Martin Malia, a local resident, voiced concerns at a planning board meeting about rising costs for locals. 

A Victorian-style house with a curved front porch and red entrance door

Source: Jennifer R./Unsplash

“Last year, the property taxpayers were burdened with an 8.8 [percent] tax increase,” he highlighted, stressing the financial strain on Westbrook’s citizens.


Migration Motives Under Scrutiny

There’s some local worry about migrants being drawn to Westbrook for its benefits, potentially burdening the existing system. 

A group of people at night lined up along a border fence while a border officer processes paperwork

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s a delicate balance between helping the needy and managing resources wisely.


Governor Mills Steps Up

Democratic Governor Janet Mills announced the creation of an Office of New Americans to integrate immigrants into Maine’s workforce. 

Janet Mills speaking at a podium with her campaign banner during an outdoor event

Source: JanetMillsforME/X

A strong move towards building a more inclusive state economy.


Harnessing the Power of New Americans

“Everywhere you look across Maine, there are help wanted signs,” said Governor Mills. 

Janet Mills addressing an audience from a podium with a campaign banner in an urban setting

Source: JanetMillsforME/X

Her vision is clear: integrate New Americans into the local workforce as a crucial economic strategy.


Announcement Venue Highlights Practical Focus

The announcement of this new initiative wasn’t in a government office but at a Westbrook textile manufacturer. 

A view of a deserted urban street in a small town with autumn leaves scattered around

Source: Zachary Edmundson/Unsplash

This venue choice symbolizes the direct connection between migrant integration and local economic development.


A Future of Opportunities in Maine

Governor Mills emphasized, “My administration will do what we can to ensure that every person can contribute to our economy.” 

Janet Mills speaking at a night event, illuminated by stage lights with a campaign sign in front

Source: JanetMillsforME/X

Maine aims to be a welcoming home for all, leveraging the strengths of its newest residents.