FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Organizational

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 as well as from Charity Navigator.

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.

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.

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.