Elena's Way will serve people who either don't want to stay in traditional shelters or can't because of other issues.
Henry Myer, the program director for Elena’s Way. Credit: Patty Wight / Maine Public

The Preble Street Resource Center on Tuesday opened a new shelter in Portland for people experiencing homelessness.

Henry Myer is program director of the 40-bed facility, called Elena’s Way, which is at the site of Preble Street’s former day shelter. He said the new facility will serve people who either don’t want to stay in traditional shelters or can’t because of behavioral, mental health or substance use issues.

“And when folks are sleeping outside, they’re so focused on their daily survival needs, that they often don’t have the capacity or bandwidth to work on medium- or long-term solutions to their homelessness,” he said.

Myer said Preble Street got the idea after operating a temporary, 24-hour shelter space at the University of Southern Maine Sullivan Gym during the early months of the pandemic. He said people who had avoided shelters before chose to stay.

“It makes us go, ‘Hey, so maybe it’s not about what’s going on with this person. Maybe it’s about making a better shelter,'” he said. “And that is my biggest hope, is to create a shelter that’s safe and comfortable and welcoming enough to support folks who have never felt those things in a shelter before.”

Myer said there’s no time limit for how long residents can stay at Elena’s Way, but the goal is to help them find housing.

Preble Street is working with the city of Portland and community organizations to identify those who would most benefit from the facility. Myers says six people moved in Tuesday.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.