BY MARK SWANN SPECIAL TO THE PRESS HERALD
Doing anti-poverty work is tough and has become even more challenging as the pandemic has led to unprecedented economic instability, social isolation and increased polarization in society. The mission of Preble Street has always been to care for people who have nowhere else to turn and to provide professional social work services to incredibly vulnerable individuals struggling with a range of health, social and relational challenges. That’s what we do.
Preble Street is just one of the many social service providers across Maine that supports people experiencing homelessness, hunger and poverty in our communities. But it seems that each year, especially the last few, Preble Street provides more food, shelter and casework than ever before.
Since March 2020, Preble Street has run a wellness shelter at the University of Southern Maine’s Sullivan Gym, opened quarantine and isolation shelters in the Portland area and Lewiston, as well as a temporary emergency shelter to help alleviate the stress on city-run Portland shelters. We started street outreach, community case management and rapid rehousing programs, and we increased emergency food programs to provide more than 1 million meals a year. Our statewide impact also expanded as we housed over a hundred veterans and expanded teen and anti-trafficking services to other parts of the state.
There is no way this agency could have managed to do all this at such a high level of service and care without the incredible dedication and commitment of the Preble Street staff. So many times, I have witnessed colleagues at the agency go above and beyond to ensure someone has shelter for the night, has access to a hot and nutritious meal or has a compassionate and professional social worker listening and trying to help.
Staff at Preble Street, at all levels of the organization, never let up – not even once – during these unprecedented and most challenging of times.
Staying true to the values we share across the agency, we came together at the bargaining table and did just that. All full-time Preble Street employees will now make $40,000 or more each year. This new agreement provides the most benefit for those at the lowest end of our pay scale and makes wages more equitable for all staff. It will help Preble Street retain staff and maintain supportive relationships with clients. It also builds on a shared commitment from all parts of the organization to implementing diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, efforts and initiatives. Combined with a very strong benefits package, we believe that this agreement will help us to ensure that programs can operate at full capacity and provide critical services across the state.