Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to some of the most common questions that we receive are listed below.
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.
Preble Street is a nonprofit human service agency serving the most vulnerable people in Maine since 1975 through innovative, best-practice, client-centered programs. In addition to the largest direct service emergency food program in northern New England, Preble Street operates low-barrier programs throughout Maine providing 24/365 services for individuals and families, including homeless youth, women, veterans, and survivors of human trafficking, driven by its mission to meet urgent needs, empower people to move beyond the crises in their lives, and advocate for solutions to homelessness, hunger, and poverty.
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 nearly 300 staff, including full-time and part-time employees and social work interns. Preble Street has offices in Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor. We also depend on 1,000 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
- 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
- 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
- Cultural Sensitivity
- 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 email@example.com.
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, Street Outreach Collaborative, 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 two years, we have served over 1,000,000 meals/year.
Because of the drastic increase in demand for food, Preble Street is launching a new Food Security Hub, a sustainable, comprehensive, and collaborative approach dedicated to ending hunger in Maine. The Preble Street Food Security Hub, the first food hub in Maine focused on food insecurity, is located at 75 Darling Avenue in South Portland. When completed in 2023, this 30,000 square foot mixed-use space will function as an industrial kitchen, food processing center, educational/vocational site, office space, and conference center dedicated to collective advocacy work and efforts to end hunger.
Much of our food is donated by individuals, groups, schools, local farmers, and businesses. 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 Street Outreach Collaborative, Food Pantry, and Soup Kitchens, click here.
Preble Street operates many programs, including several shelters. These shelters include:
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 207-699-4392 for more information.
Please contact the Street Outreach Collaborative at 207-775-0026 x1880
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, and Veterans Housing Services, Teen Services, and Anti-Trafficking Services which provide support to individuals in communities in all 16 counties in 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 2021:
- Provided over 1,000,000 million meals
- Supplied over 47,000 meals to New Mainers in an 8-month period this year
- Connected over 1,500 people to Preble Street Health Services
- Vaccinated over 222 individuals at COVID-19 vaccine clinics held in collaboration with Greater Portland Health and MMC Homeless Health Partners
- Connected over 100 Veterans with emergency housing assistance and over 90 Veterans and their families to safe, permanent housing
- Managed over 300 emergency shelter beds in Portland, Lewiston, Scarborough, and Bangor
- Connected 68 people experiencing homelessness to permanent housing through our Rapid Re-Housing program
- Served approximately 150 youth experiencing homelessness
- Supported over 600 individuals with outreach and social work services through the Street Outreach Collaborative
- Supported approximately 100 survivors of human trafficking through Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Services
- Continued serving 85 tenants at Preble Street Housing First programs
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.
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 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.
Housing instability and unemployment very frequently coexist and exacerbate each other. In the State of Maine, it is difficult not to notice the increase in the number of visibly unhoused individuals, with many cities and towns now facing what seems to be an unprecedented crisis of housing and shelter availability. Simultaneously, an increasing number of businesses are advertising higher starting salaries in an attempt to fill staffing vacancies following the many resignations that have happened since the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. When faced with this seemingly illogical disconnect, it can be easy to wonder why folks in unhoused communities may struggle to find employment when it appears commonly available.
There is no one reason for these issues. Individuals in unhoused communities often face a variety of interconnected barriers, many of which prevent them from securing and maintaining stable employment. The following is a non-exhaustive list of barriers that many unhoused community members face when trying to find a job.
- Lack of stability
A lack of stable housing and shelter makes it incredibly difficult to maintain a schedule that allows employment. While those with access to housing have the luxury of coming and going from their homes as they please, folks who are accessing shelter do not. Most emergency shelters cannot guarantee individuals a bed each night. To access shelter for the night, folks must be sure that they are present at the shelter at the time of check-in. Lack of space means that wait times and lines for shelter access are long, forcing those accessing shelter to line up hours in advance to ensure that they will have a bed for the evening.
- Inconsistent access to technology
Without ongoing access to shelter, electricity, and funding, maintaining connection through mobile phones or email is incredibly difficult. Tasks like applying for jobs and maintaining ongoing employment are very challenging without stable access to technology.
- Unmet basic needs
Living without stable housing makes it difficult to ensure that basic needs are met consistently. Access to food is often unreliable or requires that an individual adheres to a specific schedule in order to receive meals. Lack of access to housing and shelter can also make it challenging to meet basic hygiene and healthcare necessities. Unhoused individuals must rely on social services, friends, and other resources for things like showers and laundry access.
- Issues with substance use
Substance use disorder can make it very difficult to secure and maintain stable employment. Communities across Maine have been widely impacted by the ongoing opioid epidemic, a crisis that was greatly heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Mental health
For some individuals, mental health challenges lead to both housing instability and a lack of stable employment. Oftentimes, preexisting mental health challenges are greatly exacerbated by housing instability, as a lack of consistent access to shelter and rest causes increased strain on the body both physically and psychologically.
- Physical disabilities
Physical disabilities, some of which are caused by injuries at previous jobs or years of intensive physical labor, can make it difficult to remain employed. Some physical disabilities and/or medical needs can also make it difficult to access shelter, as many emergency shelters do not have the ability to accommodate folks who require higher levels of physical assistance.
- History of incarceration
- Citizenship and immigration status
The issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty persist in our country because of:
- Intergenerational poverty & wealth disparities
- Structural racism & the continued impact of White Supremacy
- Concentration of wealth into the hands of a few
- Social policies that direct wealth upward
- Disinvestment from social services
- “Bootstraps” mentality
- Impact of COVID-19
The experience of poverty is intergenerational, and poverty is expensive. When a person’s resources are being stretched to make ends meet, any unexpected expense could mean total financial ruin.
We also know that the social systems that shape our society — like white supremacy culture — have tangible effects on homelessness and poverty. In Maine, Black and African American individuals are ten times more likely to experience homelessness than their White peers.
Meanwhile, gentrification is turning Portland and many other Maine towns into places where only the wealthy can afford to live and work, while the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to increase the need for housing and food assistance in our communities. Despite all this, there is a prevailing idea that everyone can just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” a philosophy that places the blame of homelessness and poverty on the individuals experiencing it rather than the larger systems that perpetrate racial, social, and economic injustices.
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.
Yes! Contact the volunteer manager at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Thank you! Please visit LandlordsHelp.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.