Topic: Mission

Annual memorial vigil mourns deaths among homeless

Dozens turned out last Friday to honor the 43 members of the homeless community who lost their lives in 2019.

For the last 25 years, people have gathered in Portland for the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Vigil, an event to mourn and pay tribute to the lives lost and to reaffirm the need to help find homes for those without. The event Dec. 20, coinciding with the winter solstice, started at the Preble Street Resource Center and ended at Monument Square for speeches, songs and the reading of the names of the 43 homeless people who died this year.

“What we see and what we know nationwide is when someone experiences chronic homelessness, which means they are living in a shelter or outside for years, that takes years off of someone’s life,” said Caitlin Corrigan, Health Services Director for Preble Street.

The average age at death in Cumberland County for 2019 is 80.1 years old, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The average age at death for the greater Portland homeless population over the last year was 55, including one as young as 35.

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Advocates push for law to vacate convictions of human-trafficking victims

Survivors of human trafficking rallied Thursday in Augusta to increase public awareness about forced laborers or sex workers in Maine and to advocate for a bill allowing trafficking victims to have criminal convictions vacated. They were joined by representatives from Maine nonprofit organizations including Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Services.

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Affordable housing saves lives and saves the community money

Increased homelessness and its root causes are not unique to Portland. Despite what we hear about a strengthening economy, homelessness and hunger have exploded and many thousands of hungry, cold and ill Americans are living on streets in cities and towns across the country. And, across the country, municipalities and service providers struggle daily with unpredictable funding and increased costs as they work tirelessly to help people in their communities find shelter, food, housing, health care and hope.

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Society Notebook: 40 years of people empowerment in Portland

… It was the mid-1970s when Joe Kreisler, a social work professor at the University of Southern Maine, hatched the idea that his students should have meaningful, hands-on internships working with people struggling with homelessness, hunger and poverty … 

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Preble Street Named Top Charity in Maine

Preble Street, a Portland-based social service agency, announced it earned the highest score of any charity in Maine in a 2014 fiscal-year analysis performed by Charity Navigator, a national evaluator of charities. The agency recorded an overall average of 99.17 points out of 100 to rank among the highest-scored nonprofits in the country.

Maine Voices: Wealthy ‘angels’ needed to help end suffering in Portland

We are blessed at Preble Street with generous, loyal donors who, year after year, send us a check. Whether the donation is $50 or $500, we are inspired by their support. Some have been doing this for as long as we can remember. I’ve been sending "thank you" notes for over 20 years to people I feel I know well, though I’ve never met them. These donors and their heartfelt gifts save lives and meet growing needs in Portland and beyond.

We also have some "angels" who have made very large, transformational donations to keep a shelter for children open when another agency announced its closing; to open Logan Place, a housing alternative to overcrowded shelters; to launch the Maine Hunger Initiative effort to improve Maine’s tragic status as the country’s fifth hungriest state.

All the donations, large and small, make Preble Street a strong, committed, solutions-centered organization, and we appreciate the investment each donor is making to our relentless, mission-driven work.

But something is missing.

Specifically, it’s people like the couple who gave $30 million to a homeless service organization in Philadelphia to replicate successful models and move thousands of people from the streets to stable housing. When I heard about that gift, I filled a whiteboard at Preble Street with a vision map, and our New Year’s resolution is to find visionaries here in Maine with the means to underwrite those dreams.

With a fractured social compact, where government is no longer able – or willing – to support a sturdy safety net, it has fallen to private funders to keep emergency shelters open, stock shelves at soup kitchens and meet the basic needs of our brothers and sisters.

But philanthropy can do more: It can build bridges to dignity, stability and independence.

Yet in 2012, only 13 percent of philanthropic dollars nationally supported human services, according to Giving USA 2013. Human services doesn’t even appear on the list of "causes that received gifts of $5 million or more" in a 2012 Chronicle of Philanthropy report.

And, most troubling to me, the percentage of donations allocated to social services sinks as incomes rise, with only 4 percent of donors with incomes over $1 million designating contributions to basic needs, according to a New York Times report.

In 2012, of 95 individual gifts over $1 million (totaling an amazing $7 billion), only four were donations to human services – and those went to the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation.

None were made in Maine, and that needs to change.

Human service organizations are not simply "do-gooders." We are thoughtful, strategic, expert problem-solvers. We have to be: The stakes are too high. Every day, thousands of Mainers count on us to help them survive the ravages of poverty, homelessness, hunger and abuse.

Every day we witness these struggles at Preble Street:

• A 79-year-old woman with dementia, getting around in a wheelchair, living in shelters and on the streets, unable to access an assisted living program.

• A 17-year-old boy whose only experience of family has been 14 foster homes.

• A 35-year-old man with untreated severe mental illness, shuttling back and forth between shelters, hospital emergency rooms and jails.

• A 30-year-old victim of domestic violence, forced to trade her body for a place to stay.

They deserve better, and agencies like Preble Street know what needs to be done. All that’s missing is the power that wealthy donors alone have: the power to capitalize on what we’ve proven works, allowing us to dramatically improve outcomes. And to save lives.

Some examples from Preble Street’s whiteboard:

• $1 million would run a recovery house for homeless women struggling with addiction.

• $5 million would provide a comprehensive service system replacing the long lines of mats in jam-packed shelters and endless wandering from one end of town to the other to get a meal, register for a job and sign up to see a doctor.

• $10 million would open another Logan Place for medically compromised people living in poverty.

• Four $10,000,000 gifts would virtually end chronic homelessness in Portland.

I am certain that social service agencies all over Maine have their own whiteboards. They, too, deserve angels. There is so much we all can accomplish, if we have the means.

We’re grateful to all our donors. They underpin the lifesaving work we do. If they could, we know they would do more.

But to move beyond rescue operations, social service agencies need investors who understand the urgency of our work and who believe that all people matter.

With a few generous donors we could transform Portland, filling the cracks so no one falls through, moving everyone closer to their dream, celebrating a city where all are better off when none are suffering.

Help us meet our 2015 resolution.

– Special to the Press Herald

Preble Street lauded for nonprofit works

…Preble Street earned the top rating of the 43 nonprofit groups in Maine rated by Charity Navigator, with a score of 99.17 out of 100. Preble Street operates with a $9 million budget, running homeless shelters and a food pantry in Portland, as well as various programs to help low-income and mentally ill people…

 

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