Youth homelessness: a call to community action

Since last month’s highlight on youth homelessness in Maine, the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter has reached maximum capacity several days in a row for the first time in over three years. Preble Street will never turn a minor youth away, and while at maximum capacity, staff are working with community partners and youth 18 and older to ensure they have shelter elsewhere, even if just for a night.

Youth shelters across the state are facing similar issues, highlighting the need for more resources for young people experiencing homelessness. “This should really be a call to community action. We’re not doing this work in isolation,” said Hailey Virusso, Director of Teen Housing Services, to the Press Herald. “I think we need to remind folks who have privileges or who might have extra this time of year to think about whether they have the ability to support youth. It could mean providing housing options to someone who maybe doesn’t have a credit score, or employment to someone who doesn’t have a list of references. Those people are deeply necessary.”

Dignified shelter staffed by social workers connects youth to the resources they need to reach their ultimate goal of safe, affordable, permanent housing. In 2021, Preble Street Teen Services housed 49 youth in independent and permanent living situations and nine in transitional or supported situations. We are also establishing mobile diversion and outreach programs that cover 11 Maine counties, allowing youth experiencing homelessness to be housed in their own communities where they most likely have established support networks.

Ultimately, the solution to youth homelessness is housing. If you or someone you know is a landlord who would like to rent to youth supported by Preble Street, please email or call 207-874-1197.