“I’m so thankful you can stand in as their family when we can’t.”
— Parent of a person experiencing unsheltered homelessness and mental health disorders
Unsheltered homelessness is on the rise due to a shortage of shelter beds, lack of affordable housing, and insufficient resources for people with mental health and substance use disorders. In 2022, the Preble Street Street Outreach Collaborative (SOC) distributed 48,599 meals — which were created at the Preble Street Food Security Hub — and provided casework services to 515 individuals.
For many reasons, people experiencing homelessness can become disconnected from their families, friends, and communities. Preble Street caseworkers build trusting relationships with clients and step in to provide a support system. Every day of the year, SOC staff visit locations around Portland to provide food, clothing, and other basic needs to people living outside. They use these opportunities of connection to work alongside clients and help them reach their goals of shelter, housing, recovery, or employment.
People who are unsheltered frequently require numerous resources from emergency responders including support from the police and medical teams. And winter’s freezing temperatures and exposure to the elements can lead to severe frostbite. In one recent case, the SOC team was able to connect someone living in the woods to medical services, casework, and a bed at Elena’s Way.
Since the SOC launched in July 2020, they have not missed a day of outreach. To better support clients, the team collaborates with staff from numerous Preble Street programs and local community partners, including:
- Church of Safe Injection
- Grace Street Ministry
- Portland Parks & Recreation Department
- Portland Public Health Department
- Preble Street Rapid Rehousing Services, Veterans Housing Services, Health Services, Teen Services, and Advocacy team
- The Opportunity Alliance’s Project for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH)
- WEX, Inc. (a group of volunteers here have been providing a weekly laundry service to unsheltered clients!)
When staff from these programs and agencies join SOC in their outreach, client connections are made in the moment, resulting in quicker and more effective entry to services for people who need them.
The SOC’s community partnerships also cultivate collaboration and communication between organizations, building and strengthening relationships across agencies. This keeps all members of the collaborative grounded in the shared purpose of serving clients in an effective and dignified way.
“I have chronic PTSD and could not handle the environments at other shelters. This shelter is different. I was living in a tent that collapsed from snow. They helped me come inside. Now I have an apartment coming.” — Elena’s Way client Since opening its doors one year ago, the Elena’s Way Wellness Shelter has provided 9,054 bed
The Portland City Council is taking public comment about encampment sweeps at their meeting this Tuesday, September 26, at 5pm. Please attend and make your voices heard, OR email them before September 25 at 12pm to ensure your comments are included in their packets! Last week, Preble Street shared our recommendations for action steps on how to solve
Portland, Maine, has a unique opportunity to drastically decrease encampment and unsheltered numbers with the opening of the new Riverside shelter and its 179 new beds. Read Preble Street’s seven action steps to address this public health, housing, and shelter crisis.