Photos by Mark Mattos

Hope Acts helps asylum seekers and other immigrants integrate into life in southern Maine. The organization was founded in 2012 by HopeGateWay Faith Community as a separate nonprofit, and in 2013, Richard and Theresa Berman purchased the building at 14 Sherman Street for transitional housing for asylum seekers. That building was named “Hope House.” From the beginning, Hope House provided services to help asylum seekers living in the building transition successfully to life in Maine. Over the years, programs and staff people have been added. Many programs are open to all categories of immigrants needing assistance. In 2022, the Berman family donated Hope House to Hope Acts.

Program Director Alice Kabore
Portland Public Library’s new Executive Director, Sarah Moore, pictured with Hope Acts’ Executive Director Martha Stein
Program Manager Mathruin Ngoy assists AARC clients

Dear Amjambo Community,

Hope Acts began providing transitional housing for asylum seekers 10 years ago when the organization opened Hope House. Since that time much has changed: the number of asylum seekers coming to Maine has soared, the affordable housing crisis has worsened, and the backlog of cases in the immigration courts has grown. Hope Acts and our many partner organizations have needed to adapt to meet increased and urgent needs. At Hope Acts we see our work as a humanitarian response to a worldwide crisis, and we do our best to assist every person who walks through our door. Over the years we have added new services, which are free.

I joined Hope Acts as a board member in 2016 and moved into the Executive Director role in January 2018. At that time, we were two part-time staff members supporting Hope House and a small but growing Hope House English Language Program. Today, 11 staff members, interns, and a large group of community volunteers work with New Mainers daily, helping individuals and families restart their lives in our community. Over 2,500 clients and 250 English language learners have accessed Hope Acts’ services in the past year. Board and staff members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. We come together as individuals who strive for a day when all immigrants will be welcomed, supported, and valued.

Hope Acts programs are made possible by the many volunteers and financial supporters of our work. Thank you to each person who is stepping up to make Maine a better place for everyone to thrive.

Martha Stein

Hope House – Transitional Housing

This fall marks several milestones for Hope House. It has been 10 years since Hope House opened its doors to provide transitional housing for previously homeless asylum seekers. And Hope House has welcomed its 100th resident to live in the 13-unit apartment building. Selecting a new resident for a spot at Hope House is challenging given the numbers of unhoused asylum seekers in the Portland area. Candidates should be interested in being part of a community, and want to take advantage of the support services offered by Hope Acts.

Eligibility: Single adult asylum seekers experiencing homelessness

How to apply: Hope Acts does not maintain a waiting list because vacancies are rare. Individuals who complete applications for Project Home will also be considered for Hope House vacancies.

For more information: [email protected]

Program Assistant Mariam Abdourahman and farmer/Cultivating Community partner unload fresh vegetables

Project Home 

Hope Acts partners with the Quality Housing Coalition/Project Home to provide housing education, housing placement, and case management services for individuals and families who have lived at Hope House. The partnership currently supports 80 households, representing almost 200 individuals. Our team approach provides risk mitigation for landlords and ongoing case management and support for clients. To date, all of Project Home clients have maintained their housing; none of our clients has ever been evicted. 

Eligibility: Any asylum seeker 

Housing Intakes and Education: Tuesdays from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Fridays from 1 – 5 p.m. at Hope House. First come, first served.  

General information about Project Home: [email protected] 

Project Home clients: [email protected] 

Are you Interested in becoming a Project Home landlord? Would you like more information about participating in the new home host program (renting a room or part of your home to an asylum seeker)? Please contact Rod at [email protected]

Hope Acts has worked with this family for over four years. At the time this photo was taken, the mother had just arrived in the U.S. after a long and arduous journey Photo | Megan Jones

There is bipartisan support in Congress for legislation to streamline the work permit process so asylum seekers can join the workforce more rapidly, however the existing federal law remains in place. Currently, most asylum seekers must wait for at least 150 days after applying for asylum to file an application for a work permit, and then they must renew their work permit every two years.

Work Permit Clinic

Maine employers need workers, and immigrants want – and need – to work! For more than five years, Hope Acts has assisted asylum seekers in completing their work permit applications so they can legally work in the U.S. In 2022, staff and volunteers completed nearly 800 work permit applications, and this year they are on track to complete over 1,000 work permit applications. The program was moved to the Portland Public Library this past year, and Hope Acts recently entered into a new partnership with the Maine Department of Labor/Maine Career Center. Now when clients arrive for their appointment, they can work with Career Center staff while they wait. Career Center staff provide job advice, help signing up for Maine Job Link (job database), and information about training opportunities.

Eligibility: Any asylum seeker

Appointments: [email protected]

General questions about work permits: [email protected]

How to access: Work permit applications are by appointment only. First-time applicants should come to Hope House (Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.) with their immigration paperwork so we can check the 150-day work permit clock and explain the process before setting the appointment. Clients wishing to renew their application may visit Hope House, or contact [email protected], (207) 331-7765.

The work permit clinic is held at the Portland Public Library from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, by appointment only. Each client is matched to a trained volunteer and interpreter (if needed).

An Asylum Application Resource Center client completes her asylum application
The Portland Public Library hosts the Asylum Application Resource Center and Work Permit Clinic

Hope House English Language Program

The Hope House English Language Program (HHELP) offers beginner- through intermediate-level English language classes throughout the year. Like many other English language programs, HHELP moved from in-person to online classes at the start of the pandemic. Classes are offered through WhatsApp and Zoom. Students can join a class anytime.

Sign up:

For more information: [email protected] or [email protected]

Residents participated in a garden build day with Maine Foodscapes Photo courtesy of Hope Acts
Program Assistant Francois Mayesi
Housing Program Manager Rod Mahoua works with clients

Asylum Seeker Assistance Program

The ASAP program is open to all asylum seekers and provides assistance with the many complex systems associated with living in Maine. These include paperwork associated with work permits, understanding mail, completing forms, making appointments, and accessing general help to meet basic needs. These are walk-in services.

Eligibility: Any asylum seeker

How to access: Come to Hope House, 14 Sherman St., Portland, on Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. No appointment is needed. First come, first served.

For more information: [email protected]

Asylum Application Resource Center (AARC)

The Asylum Application Resource Center was launched in summer 2022 as a pilot program and has now become a full program.

Many asylum seekers do not have access to an immigration attorney due to the large number of applicants and the shortage of immigration attorneys in Maine – and nationwide. The goal of AARC is to provide a free, safe, supervised environment for people to work on their applications. AARC does not provide legal advice. However, resources like computers, printing, and language interpretation are available, and attorney Betsy Mahoney provides legal oversight. The program serves a limited number of asylum seekers at any one time due to capacity limitations.

Eligibility: Asylum seekers without an immigration attorney

How to access AARC: By appointment only. Come to Hope House Monday or Wednesday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to make an appointment. AARC clinics are held at the Portland Public Library on Thursday and Friday.

For more information: [email protected]

Samuel Rucogoza brings newly housed clients to Furniture Friends weekly to select furniture