2023, like most years, was full of many challenges. But, after nearly 50 years of anti-poverty work, we know how important it is to focus on the many positive things that happened this year. Preble Street continued to produce and distribute thousands of daily meals at our Food Security Hub to meet increasing food needs, broadened our services statewide to reach more victims of human trafficking, and connected many people – individuals, families, youth, and Veterans – with safe and permanent housing.
Preble Street accomplished so much this year thanks to our hard-working and passionate staff, the volunteers who show up each and every day, and the many people in our community who donate much-needed items like gloves, socks, and warm coats, food, and funds. We truly cannot do this critical work without the support and love of our community. We wish you all a happy and safe 2024!
Expanding Site-based Housing First
One of the most exciting things to happen this year was the creation of a path to more Site-based Housing First in Maine. In July, Governor Janet Mills signed a budget package which included funding to support the creation of more Site-based Housing First programs across Maine.
Preble Street, Avesta Housing, Housing First tenants and family members, and countless other organizations advocated for this funding that will support the creation of 12-15 Site-based Housing First programs in communities across Maine and will help to end long-term, chronic homelessness in our state.
Fast forward to November when Avesta Housing and Preble Street announced plans to provide Site-based Housing First permanent housing with on-site support services to chronically homeless people on the site of the former Oxford Street homeless shelter in Portland. This is the fourth project that Avesta and Preble Street have collaborated on. When it opens (construction is planned to begin in late 2025), this project will join Logan Place, which opened in 2005; Florence House (2010); and Huston Commons (2017).
Meeting Emergency Food Needs
Time and again this year, the staff at the Preble Street Food Security Hub has worked hard to meet changing needs in the community, whether feeding asylum-seekers at the Portland Expo or children and families at Frances Warde at Mercy Hospital, serving clients at the City of Portland’s Homeless Services Center (HSC), or meeting an increased demand for meal boxes.
Over the last year, Preble Street, with the support of our amazing volunteers, has provided over 1,000,000 meals to people experiencing homelessness and hunger in Maine. Along with the meals served at the HSC, meals are also provided to area shelters, local individuals and families through the food pantry, and — thanks to the Street Outreach Collaborative — to people living unsheltered in Portland.
Construction will begin on the Food Security Hub in 2024 and once fully renovated, the Food Security Hub will combine a 5,000-square foot commercial kitchen, ample space for education and collaborative partnerships, and an innovative new food processing lab.
As we think about the disruptive storm that hit Maine a few weeks ago, as well as past emergencies and natural disasters, from the Ice Storm of 1998 to the pandemic, we are excited about the role that the Food Security Hub can play in emergency preparedness. By increasing our processing and freezer capacity, when fully realized, the Food Security Hub will have 50,000 frozen, prepared meals on hand and available for future emergencies. Those meals, in addition to the 10,000 meals that the Food Security Hub will be able to produce daily, will be a critical component of Maine’s emergency preparedness operational plans.
Focusing on Solutions to the Unsheltered Homelessness Crisis
The number of people experiencing homelessness in Maine – and across the entire United States – is up dramatically since the start of the pandemic. Emergency shelters across the state have full beds every night. Even for people with a job or a housing voucher, there is no affordable housing to be found.
In September, Preble Street released recommendations to solve the unsheltered homelessness crisis in Portland, with solutions that can be applied in other communities in Maine. The solution to the growing number of unsheltered human beings that we are seeing is to create an improved continuum of shelter and housing options in partnership with health care. This requires a collaboration of federal, state, municipal, and private efforts. It is complex but can be done.
People needing to live outside on streets or encampments in the cold of winter is inhumane and dangerous. But sweeps are inhumane and dangerous too and we will continue to advocate against them and the disruption and negative outcomes they cause.
Everyone deserves safe, dignified shelter and as we look ahead to 2024, Preble Street will continue to advocate for the critical funding of low-barrier shelters and to educate about the critical role these shelters play in keeping our communities safe.
Read more of our top news of 2023
Veteran homelessness is a big, but solvable problem, in Maine. And Mainers are united in the belief that no Veteran should have to endure the struggle of homelessness. In August 2023 when the No Homeless Veterans Challenge launched, there were over 200 Maine Veterans in homeless shelters, sleeping outside, or living in their cars and
“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
(Pictured: Recuperative Care staff from Preble Street and GPH at the 1 year anniversary celebration of the program) In the days before Maine’s first recuperative care program (RCP) opened last September, the walls of the light-filled space were bare. One year later the walls are full of colorful photos and art, most created by patients
Moving out of homelessness While there is an unquestionable housing and homelessness crisis right now, there are also signs of hope, as illustrated in Erin’s story. The Preble Street Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) program, in partnership with the programs across the agency, has housed 24 individuals since the beginning of the year. Together, these individuals have
A lack of housing shouldn’t be a barrier to the right to education. Whether they’re couch surfing with friends, sleeping in a car, hotel, or motel, or staying at a shelter, at least 15,000 youth and young adults experience homelessness each year in Maine. Thankfully, schools are federally mandated by The McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act
Preble Street expands services for victims/survivors of labor trafficking and exploitation across Maine
Throughout Maine, children and adults of all genders, ages, and races are forced to perform many different types of work, including farm labor, domestic service, commercial sex work, and restaurant and hospitality service, through threats, physical and sexual violence, and psychological coercion. Since 2013, working with survivors across the state, Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Services (ATS)