BANGOR, Maine — Whether as a machinist’s mate second class in the U.S. Navy or as a mechanical supervisor at Hinckley Yachts, Gerald Cummings has always been curious about how things work.

That’s partly why the 67-year-old Ellsworth man walked 3.5 miles for the 20th annual Hike for the Homeless in Bangor on Saturday. Cummings said he has never been homeless. After serving aboard the USS Shangri-La during the Vietnam War on the aircraft carrier’s final combat patrol, Cummings said he built multimillion dollar yachts at Hinckley for 35 years.

“I have had a good life. I got out of the Navy and I got a good job,” Cummings said Saturday. “But I actually do sometimes wonder what kind of person ends up homeless. I support the homeless cause because I know that there are a lot of homeless veterans out there. I guess a lot of it is PTSD. I don’t really know why because nowadays there’s a lot of outreach available, so I am kind of surprised there is as much homelessness as there is.

“I just talked to some homeless kids who were dragged up here from Oklahoma. Their mother abandoned them. They have no place to go. I just feel bad for the homeless who have no choice,” Cummings said.

Cummings was among about 1,100 participants — a record number — who converged on the Bangor Waterfront from Bangor, Brewer, Hampden and Hermon as part of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter‘s event, said Kelly Maltz, an event coordinator.

Hard work from the event’s volunteers, and a change in focus, might account for the increase, said Rob Kissinger, the volunteer who ran the event.

“This is the first time that we put the emphasis on homelessness in the region,” Kissinger said, describing the event less as a fundraiser than as a spotlight to raise awareness. “The crew that put this together is amazing.”

The event had 841 participants last year, Kissinger said.

Some formerly homeless people also contributed to it. One was Richard Quimby of Bangor, who helped make hot dogs for the walkers. A Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, the 59-year-old said he has been fully disabled since 1992 with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and a left-hip displacement.

He said he worked for many years in construction, helping build a science wing at a local high school and a local bank branch as a common laborer, and for years before that at Bangor Shoe and Dysart’s restaurant as a laborer and dishwasher. Now living in a Bangor Housing Development Corp. apartment on Ohio Street, Quimby said he was homeless from 2012 to mid-2013 and stayed in the city’s homeless shelter for several months.

“I figure the people have been good to me with donations. They donated clothes [among other items] so I could have something. I figure this [volunteering] is a way to retain my favor,” Quimby said of the volunteer work.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States in January 2014. Of that number, 216,197 are people in families, and 362,163 are individuals. About 9 percent, or 49,933, are veterans, according to the organization.

The Disabled Veterans National Foundation states that while only 8 percent of Americans can claim veteran status, 17 percent of the U.S. homeless population consists of veterans. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimated that on any given night, 76,000 veterans were homeless.

Federal government social spending programs, particularly the $507 million in grants awarded during the last two years through the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, are at least partly responsible for the decline in homeless veterans, according to VA officials.

Of the vets still homeless, 96 percent of homeless vets are white men from poor or disadvantaged families and communities. Half suffer from mental illness and two-thirds suffer from substance abuse problems — many suffer from both.

Over the past year, more than 2,000 people stayed at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, which has a paid staff of 12 full-time employees plus many more volunteers. It is primarily supported by donations.

Kissinger said shelter officials won’t know how much the walk event generated for several days.