BRUNSWICK — The number of asylum seekers relocating to Brunswick could triple within the next week, according to town officials.

“Things have continued to evolve very rapidly,” Town Manager John Eldridge told the town’s immigrant task force Wednesday evening.

More than 60 people could move to town in the coming days, taking housing provided by Brunswick Landing Venture, other landlords and host families.

Eldridge and other town officials have been working to find a cultural broker to help facilitate the transition for these families, and one could be in place by next week, he said. Eldridge said the person they are considering came highly recommended, speaks the primary languages of the families (French, Portuguese and Lingala, among others) and “seemed to hit all the right notes” in discussions about what the job would entail, he said.

An African immigrant himself, the broker has been heavily involved at the Portland Expo, where the city has temporarily housed hundreds of migrants who have entered Maine from countries such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since June 9, 379 people have checked into the Expo, but it’s not a permanent solution. Because of contractual obligations, the migrants must all be out of the emergency shelter by Aug. 15.

Chris Rhoades, a housing developer with Brunswick Landing Venture, offered rent-free assistance for at least three months to some of the families on several vacant properties, two of which are now being used.

Most of the families’ major needs are being met, including housing, food and bus passes, but they want to be able to go somewhere to help themselves, rather than have people come to them all the time, Sarah Singer, a school board and task force member, said recently. The need for independence for these families has been stressed by many experts who have weighed in at Town Council and task force meetings.

On Monday, Eldridge told the council he thought a part-time position would be adequate to deal with the roughly 20 asylum seekers currently in town. But with that number expected to swell, he and others decided a full-time position would be better, and the person should be located at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, where most of the families are living. They have not yet determined what the cultural broker’s salary will be, he said.

Some parts of the position are still being worked out, like what the broker’s role with the schools might be, given that as many as 30 children may start school in the fall.

Emily Darby, the school district coordinator of English for Speakers of Other Languages, will work closely with the broker, Assistant Superintendent Shawn Lambert said. First, though, they need to get the children registered for school and set up in the “Experience English” language camp, which starts Monday.

Many pieces are still evolving, such as where to put a resource center to connect asylum seekers with services. Task force members were initially working to secure space at the Brunswick Landing Recreation Center. As that space is also used as a preschool site, Eldridge said it is only available until early September. He has reached out to other property owners in Brunswick Landing and said he hopes to have a more long-term solution by the end of the week.

Local organizations like The Emergency Action Network, Midcoast New Mainers Support Group, Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority and state organizations like Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition have also stepped up to offer services, Eldridge said.

A link to donate should be on the town website by the end of the week, Eldridge said. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the town manager’s office at (207) 725-6659.

The task force’s next meeting is Aug. 29.

[email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.