A model for future shelters, Elena’s Way provides dignity and choice to individuals of all genders experiencing homelessness and complex health and behavioral issues who are unable
to access any other shelter
Shelter is a human right, yet the number of people living unsheltered in Portland, Bangor, Lewiston, and throughout the state of Maine has surged. There is a homelessness crisis in our state and the available shelters simply cannot meet the need, leaving many people living outside – in doorways, under bridges, and scattered throughout parks.
At Preble Street, we see firsthand the devastating physical and mental toll of homelessness and know that shelter that is more than just a place to be out of the elements. Our community needs a place where people can get off the street, stabilize, and focus on healing and restoration. This is why we are excited to open the doors to Elena’s Way, a Preble Street Wellness Shelter, a new shelter model that is a critical part of the solution to homelessness.
Located at 5 Portland Street in Portland, Maine, Elena’s Way will be a 24/7 client-centered, trauma-informed shelter grounded in social work and medical best practices. With plenty of natural light, openness, and space between beds, the building is designed to provide warmth, safety, and a healing environment for 40 people who are currently unsheltered or are currently unable to or unwilling to access other shelter. Elena’s Way is anticipated to open to clients very soon.
“Like the highly successful shelter Preble Street operated at the University of Southern Maine Sullivan Gym in the spring of 2020, guests at this new shelter won’t have to wait outside for entry at night or leave in the morning,” says Mark Swann, Preble Street Executive Director. “They won’t have to carry their belongings from place to place throughout the city. Staffed by Preble Street social work professionals with services and meals onsite, this new kind of shelter offers an opportunity for healing, and a chance for individuals to work toward their goals of housing, healthcare, and employment.”
Professional casework, laundry, storage, and mail are all offered on-site. Nutritious meals will be created at the Preble Street Food Security Hub and served three times daily, with warming cabinets and a refrigerator allowing clients the choice to eat them at any time of day.
“People experiencing homelessness often feel they have no choices or control in their lives,” shares Andrew Bove, Preble Street Vice President of Social Work. “Elena’s Way will empower clients to be the decision-makers about how to best meet their own needs. Unlike traditional shelter environments, guests have access to their beds at all hours of the day, allowing them to rest whenever needed. It’s a place where people are treated with respect and dignity and offered the space and peace they need to begin rebuilding their lives.
This is all made possible by the support of the many people who share in our goal to empower Mainers experiencing homelessness to reclaim their lives. Thanks to the generous donors of The Campaign for Preble Street, the support of MaineHousing, and many others, Elena’s Way is a place where our most vulnerable neighbors can find hope for the future.
“We’ve been partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Statewide Homeless Council, the Governor’s office, and organizations like Preble Street to begin implementing a new approach to homelessness,” says MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan. “We’re so proud to be part of this. We know that it’s the right thing to do. We know that we’re on this new path, finding new ways to better institute new best practices and provide trauma-informed shelter and care. That’s what brings us here to this beautiful new shelter, Elena’s Way.”
Elena’s Way is named for Elena Schmidt, a person who has had a profound impact on Preble Street and the services we provide. Her wisdom, open heart, and values-based skills helped Preble Street grow and expand our services to reach more people. In her nearly 20 years here, Elena has served as the first Development Director, the first Human Resource Director, and now as Agency Archivist. She has been instrumental in growing this agency through her fundraising efforts, commitment to our mission, and tireless devotion to helping people who need it the most.
For 27 years, 5 Portland Street served as the Preble Street Resource Center where thousands of people found support and a hand up when they needed it most. Now, at this new Wellness Shelter, people will continue to find opportunity and hope.