FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some of the most common questions that we receive are listed below. 

Wellness Shelter

Preble Street has put forward a conditional use application to turn the site of its Resource Center at 5 Portland Street into a new, best practice 24/7 Wellness Shelter, like the highly successful shelter we operated at the University of Southern Maine Sullivan Gym over the summer.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown that emergency shelters play a critically important role in a community’s public health and need to be smaller, wide open, ensure a welcoming and calm environment, and be staffed by social work professionals. Smaller, 24/7, professionally staffed shelters are a huge part of the solution and the best practice model.

The building is owned by Preble Street, zoned to allow for emergency shelter, and has sheltered 75 people regularly for many years when Preble Street donated this facility to the City of Portland as its overflow space for the Oxford Street Shelter.

Informed by a response to the COVID-19 emergency, the Preble Street Wellness Shelter will be a permanent program and ongoing part of the solution to homelessness.

There are far, far too many people who are unsheltered in Portland. We applaud the City of Portland for continued efforts to help alleviate the situation, yet the numbers tell us there is still a need.

While many people living outside desperately want relief from the elements, they do not want to go to a shelter that is not trauma informed; where their spouse or partner is not allowed to stay; to return to a place where they’ve received a criminal trespass order or have otherwise been criminalized for symptoms of untreated mental health or substance use disorder.

As of December 7,  2020, Preble Street’s Street Outreach Collaborative (SOC) estimates there are at least 75 people sleeping outside in Portland. The SOC provides casework to people experiencing unsheltered homelessness seven days a week, and cross-references records of individuals served with lists of people staying in area shelters made available by the Homeless Management Information System.

While the service model is different from Housing First, a Wellness Shelter operates by a similar principle, giving people shelter first. Smaller shelters where safety is created and maintained through relationships allow people to relax, rest, and build trust. Within this community guests build authentic, trusting relationships which open the door for people to start connecting to healthcare, treatment, housing, and hope.

Guests don’t have to line up for entry at night or leave in the morning. They don’t have to carry their belongings from place to place as they lined up for meals and other services throughout the city. Staffed by Preble Street social work professionals with services and meals onsite, this program offers an opportunity for healing, and a chance for individuals to work toward housing, healthcare, and employment.

Gone are the days of allowing our neighbors experiencing homelessness to sleep on mats on the floor spaced six inches apart — each person will have their own bed and will work with a professional caseworker toward goals.

The Wellness Shelter will provide warmth, safety, and intensive services to 40 men and women experiencing homelessness and complex health and behavioral issues who cannot access any other shelter. Some people are not allowed in the City shelters, having been served with Criminal Trespass Orders. Some people think they aren’t allowed in City shelters even if they are allowed. And some people just don’t feel safe in large shelters because of COVID-19 or harmful experiences in the past.

Organizational

The mission of Preble Street is to provide accessible barrier-free services to empower people experiencing problems with homelessness, housing, hunger, and poverty and to advocate for solutions to these problems.

While many people may think of us as a soup kitchen in the Bayside neighborhood of Portland, Preble Street is a human services anti-poverty agency with 250 staff, over a dozen programs, and offices in Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor.

As an independent organization we are committed to utilizing all available resources, cultivating partnerships, and exploring new and better ways to serve people experiencing poverty, advocating for issues impacting the people we serve, and safeguarding the wellbeing of the community.

As a nonprofit organization, Preble Street is led by a volunteer Board of Directors with both a legal responsibility to discharge a public benefit purpose and an ethical obligation to meet the expectations of those on whose behalf the organization exists. Nonprofits are vested in the community, which has granted it certain exemptions and entrusted it with scarce resources to serve a particular social need.

Preble Street was founded in 1975 by Joe Kreisler. Read more about the history of Preble Street here.

Preble Street employs more than 200 staff, including full-time and part-time employees and social work interns. We also depend on 6,000 volunteers each year to support our food programs. 

Currently 55% of Preble Street funds come from public sources, including federal, state, county, and municipal funds. The other 45% is from private sources including individuals, foundations, businesses, and civic, fraternal, and religious organizations. In addition, over $2,100,000 worth of in-kind donations (food, clothing, personal hygiene items, etc.) help us meet the basic needs of the people we serve.

More information about our funding is available on our 990 and Audited Financials.

Preble Street is a key component — and entry point — of the social service network in Maine. We have strong, cooperative relationships with public and private service providers throughout the state including housing developers, health service providers, mental health agencies, schools, city services, and state and federal human services agencies.

Preble Street believes that homelessness is a solvable problem — and one we know we can’t solve alone. Collaboration and working together is critical to the work of Preble Street and to progress toward this goal. Preble Street partnerships extend well beyond these two programs. Across the agency, Preble Street has created working relationships with dozens of other organizations in Portland and across the state. — all of which share space on site at Preble Street programs.

We are committed to not just the model of the shelter itself, but to finding solutions as part of the community, for the community, and with support from the community.

Our partners include:

  • Maine Medical Center
  • Greater Portland Health
  • Northern Light Mercy Hospital
  • Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • MaineHousing
  • City of Portland
  • Maine Department of Health and Human Services
  • Avesta Housing
  • Good Shepherd Food Bank
  • Cooking for Community
  • Full Plates Full Potential
  • Maine Equal Justice
  • Catholic Charities
  • Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project
  • Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
  • Maine Access Immigrant Network
  • Grace Street Ministries
  • In Her Presence
  • Day One
  • Spurwink
  • Amistad
  • Milestone Recovery
  • United Way of Greater Portland

At Preble Street, we meet people where they are, no matter where they live, where they come from, or who they are. Preble Street programs are low barrier, making the delivery of service as accessible and user-friendly as possible and minimizing obstacles that stand in the way of people getting their needs met.

Preble Street uses the practices of unconditional positive regard, empathy, and authenticity to develop and sustain supportive professional relationships in unique, complex, and challenging situations. Social work at Preble Street is guided by principles and practices including:

  • Active Listening
  • Client Centered Service Provision
  • Client Self-Determination
  • Collaboration
  • Cultural Sensitivity
  • Empathy
  • Empowerment
  • Harm Reduction
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Professional Boundaries
  • Progressive Engagement
  • Social Work Assessment
  • Strengths-based Practice
  • Trauma Informed Care
  • Unconditional Positive Regard

Due to the volume of requests we receive and the breadth of the work we do, we often do not have the capacity to accommodate speaking requests or tours. If you are interested in learning more about Preble Street and seeing some of our work in action, we welcome your group to volunteer at the Resource Center Soup Kitchen.

For all media inquiries and student projects, please contact communications@preblestreet.org.

Programs and Services

From a nutritious meal to crisis intervention, from clean clothes to healthcare, from showers to a permanent home, Preble Street programs not only meet urgent needs but also create solutions to homelessness, poverty, and hunger throughout Maine. A list of current programs and their descriptions is available here.

All Preble Street programs and services are free and made possible through donations and public and private grants.

Through the food pantry, Mobile Food Services, and two soup kitchens — which operate at the Teen Center and Florence House — Preble Street Food Programs are providing more meals than ever before. For the last several years we have served over 600,000 meals/year. Since March 2020 we have been providing over 100,000 meals/month. 

Much of our food is donated by individuals, groups, schools, local farmers, and businesses. There are two major food drives that benefit Preble Street each year — one is sponsored by Rewind 100.9 and the other by Unum. In addition, we receive government surplus commodities and purchase the remainder of the food we need at a nonprofit rate.

For information about Preble Street Mobile Food Services, Food Pantry, and Soup Kitchens, click here.

Preble Street operates many programs, including several shelters. These shelters include:

  • Florence House Shelter for women
  • Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter for youth
  • Quarantine Shelter for New Mainers, members of group homes, and people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for COVID-19
  • Emergency shelter for veterans and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic

Preble Street also operated a temporary 50 bed Wellness Shelter at USM in the Spring and Summer of 2020 and is planning to open a permanent 40 bed Wellness Shelter in the Fall of 2020. 

If you are under 21 years old, we may have space for you at the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter. Call 207-775-0026 ext. 1330, or stop by the Teen Center at 343 Cumberland Ave, Portland for more information. 

If you identify as female, we may have space for you at the Florence House shelter. Call 699-4392 for more information.

Preble Street does not currently have an overnight shelter for other adults 21 and over. Other resources for you include the Oxford Street Shelter — run by the city of Portland — or Maine 211

For information about Preble Street Veterans Housing Services, click here.

Preble Street programs stretch far beyond just one neighborhood and one city. While many of the people we serve call Bayside home, Preble Street services include Housing First programs in three different Portland neighborhoods, a Quarantine Shelter just outside of Portland, and Veterans Housing Services and Anti-Trafficking Services which provide support to individuals in communities in all 16 counties in Maine. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Veterans Housing Services is providing emergency shelter beds for veterans and their families in 10 different counties across Maine.

We are committed to ensuring that all people, not just those in Portland, have a safe and dignified place to rest and the support needed to rebuild their lives. And we are committed to investing in and improving the quality of life for everyone in the many communities we serve. 

Because of these commitments, we helped a partner organization open a quarantine shelter in Lewiston; we’re sheltering veterans and their families in 10 different counties across the state; and we have participated in the Emergency Shelter Assessment Committee for a decade.

Preble Street is a member of the Maine Homeless Veterans Action Committee (MHVAC), an alliance existing to ensure veteran homelessness is rare, brief, and nonrecurring. MHVAC is working to declare a systematic end to veteran homelessness in Maine in accordance with benchmarks established by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Preble Street serves 5,000 people living in poverty each year. In 2020:

  • Preble Street Emergency Food Programs distributed 1.2 millions meals – essentially doubling our output from the previous year
  • Staff across the agency helped 721 individuals – including adults, youth, survivors of human trafficking, and veterans and their families – successfully complete a connection to a housing resource or secure permanent and/or supportive housing
  • Staff across the agency helped 287 individuals to apply or recertify for one or more benefit supports including SNAP, TANF, MaineCare, and heating assistance
  • Our new Street Outreach Collaborative served 264 people and completed 366 connections between clients and resources for health, mental health, and substance use disorder
  • Veterans Housing Services supported 406 veterans and their families with housing support
  • Teen Services supported 201 youth with safety, services and housing
  • The Florence House Shelter provided warmth and safety to 176 women
  • Health Services served 1,567 individuals, providing intensive case management and helping to connect clients to shelter, housing, clothing, and other resources
  • Anti-Trafficking Services worked with 90 survivors of human trafficking to reclaim their lives

The impact of just one Housing First program alone is astounding. Logan Place, the original Housing First program in Maine, provides apartments and 24-hour supportive services to chronically homeless people in Portland. On March 24, 2005, the day Logan Place opened, the number of people using the city overnight shelter decreased for the first time in 20 years. Logan Place not only makes a demonstrable difference in the city’s overcrowded emergency shelters but also saves the community money, relieves stress on Portland’s emergency system, and improves individual lives. An independent study one year after Logan Place opened showed:

  • 67% fewer emergency room visits
  • 66% fewer ambulance trips
  • 79% fewer detox program visits
  • 88% fewer nights in jail and 81% fewer contacts with police, saving the law enforcement system over $24K annually
  • And a reduction of 35% in the total cost of mental health care used by tenants, despite a dramatic 93% increase in contacts. This, along with a 70% reduction in physical health care services, demonstrates a shift away from high cost emergency and inpatient services.

From the outset of COVID-19 to the end of 2020, Preble Street staff have:

  • Provided emergency housing for veterans and their families in 10 different counties across Maine
  • Worked with volunteers from the community to produce 100,000 meals each month
  • Operated the only Quarantine Shelter in southern Maine, serving New Mainers, residents of group homes, people experiencing homelessness, and essential workers
  • Provided new services in partnership with medical providers
  • Provided new Rapid ReHousing support for individuals and families
  • Provided social work without walls for people who are unsheltered
  • Continued without pause our support for veterans, walk-in healthcare services for youth and adults experiencing homelessness, advocacy at the local and federal level, and three Housing First programs

Housing First is a solution to homelessness.

Housing First connects people experiencing homelessness to successful permanent housing by reducing barriers to entry and providing supportive services. Housing First works because it takes people off the streets and gives them a safe, dignified space — first. And then the work begins to rebuild and heal from the trauma of homelessness.

Preble Street Housing First programs follows the nationally recognized model of permanent supportive housing with 24/7 on-site social work support.

Since 2005, Avesta Housing and Preble Street have applied their respective strengths to solving homelessness in Portland with support from Portland Housing Authority and the Portland community, opening the initial Housing First site in Maine at Logan Place. With data showing significantly improved tenant lives and decreased financial burdens on city emergency services, shelters, jails, and detox programs, Avesta and Preble Street replicated this model in 2010 at Florence House, specifically focused on homeless women. Then in 2017, in response to increasing homelessness in Portland precipitated by rapidly diminishing state support for social services, we collaborated once again to build Huston Commons.

Avesta develops, owns, and manages the Housing First buildings, and Preble Street provides on-site staffing 24 hours a day, including social work services for tenants. These programs have been enormously successful, providing our vulnerable, traumatized neighbors the opportunity to reclaim their lives and contribute to the larger community.

The issues

The people we serve face many problems including homelessness, hunger, human trafficking, trauma and abuse, health issues, substance use disorders, and mental illness.

In short, the solution to homelessness is housing.

The majority of people who experience homelessness are situationally homeless for a short period of time due to circumstances in their life. These situations include lack of affordable housing, job layoffs, foreclosure or eviction, natural disaster, medical crises, and abuse or neglect. Over 40% of youth are homeless because their families rejected them because of their sexual identity and/or orientation. 

The solution to situational homelessness is community support and affordable housing, but community services cannot meet the growing need. In Maine, thousands of households are on the wait list for a voucher to help pay their rent. In the meantime, people are forced to live in severely overcrowded shelters or dangerous or inadequate situations. 

People become homeless for all sorts of reasons, most of them having little to do with their personal choices and more to do with the systems of poverty and oppression in our society.  People who are chronically homeless, or homeless for many years, are likely struggling with untreated health and mental health issues, sometimes complicated by substance use disorders.

A solution to chronic homelessness is Housing First, which provides a safe place to live while working on these issues. It’s important to know that the smallest percentage of people who experience homelessness are chronically homeless, but they use the highest percentage of costly services such as emergency medical treatment because their instability is compounded by the length of time they are living in crisis. Housing first not only saves lives, it saves money. Preble Street has three housing first programs. 

In addition to housing, we also need systemic solutions that will prevent homelessness in the first place — commonsense economic policies that recognize everyone’s fundamental right to the basic survival necessities — food, shelter, clothing, health care, etc.

People experiencing homelessness struggle to find shelter, warmth, and safety. People without a permanent residence also have reduced access to vital necessities such as food and proper nutrition, personal hygiene supplies, sanitary facilities, washers and dryers, phones, mail, transportation, and health, mental health, and dental care, while being at a higher risk of experiencing violence and human trafficking.

Additionally, people without housing experience discrimination that limits access to education, results in loss of relationships, and limits employment opportunities.

How to help

We could not do what we do without YOU. We welcome and depend on your volunteer time, financial support, and in-kind donations. Learn how you can help here.

Through the buying power and sources that Preble Street has, every $1 of cash donated can be turned into more than $7 of food. Consequently, the most valuable way for a donor to help — and perhaps the easiest — is through a financial donation. While we appreciate and use every type of donation, we are able to make financial contributions go further.

We accept certain food, clothing, personal hygiene, and shelter items. You can find our current needs and where to bring them here

For information about volunteering or to sign up for a shift, visit our volunteer page or contact the Volunteer Manager at volunteer@preblestreet.org.

Yes! Contact the volunteer manager at volunteer@preblestreet.org for more information.

There are lots of ways children can help the youth and adults in our communities who are experiencing homelessness.

  • Do a food drive, a sock drive, a toiletry, or help collect any of the items on our wish list.
  • Help make decorations for our holiday parties or special days throughout the year.
  • Have a fundraiser: start a contest to see who can save the most nickels, have a lemonade stand… we know that if you use your imagination you can think of more fun ways to raise money!
  • Make a big pot of your favorite soup or chili, chicken wings, or chips and dip and bring them to the Teen Center.
  • Bake cookies or brownies for dessert or bedtime snacks for youth and women experiencing homelessness.