Letter from Swannie: Curbside Winter 2023/24

Photo: Mark Swann, on right, at a 2015 protest in front of Portland’s City Hall advocating for more overflow shelter capacity. Ensuring that there are enough shelter beds for all who need them continues to impact vulnerable Mainers.

Right now, we are at a tipping point for homelessness in Maine. The number of people experiencing homelessness, especially unsheltered homelessness, in our state continues to grow. There simply aren’t enough shelter beds, apartments, and homes for the number of people who need them.

Without adequate infrastructure and support for accessible, low-barrier shelter and housing, tents have become epidemic in both rural and urban communities across the state.

While the scope of the challenge in front of us seems overwhelming, we can solve it. The number of people living in tents and encampments as winter falls is a lot – more than 200 tents in Portland alone as of mid-November – but if we take the right actions now, we can provide people with the support that they need and end this crisis. It will require collaboration between national, state, municipal, and community partners.

It will require adding additional resources, including health care, case management, shelter, and housing. It will require planning, short and long-term strategies, accountability at all levels, and compassion. Preble Street is committed to doing this work and as we look ahead to our 50th year in 2025, Preble Street is evolving to meet the needs of our changing world. From plans for new Site-based Housing First programs to expanding the number of meals that we can prepare and distribute each day, we are working to meet Maine’s future needs.

The problems of homelessness are complex, but the solutions don’t need to be. In this season of hope and opportunity, we are thankful for the support and love of our community that allows us to do this critical work.