BANGOR, Maine — When Dennis Marble became director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter in 1996, funding from state and federal homeless programs covered 50 percent of the facility’s operating costs.
Today, however, the percentage has dwindled to 26 percent, Marble said this week.
That’s why Marble says events such as this month’s Hike for the Homeless are becoming increasingly important to the shelter’s survival.
In an interview Thursday, Marble announced that this year’s hike, which took place on April 10, set new fundraising and participation records, with $50,680 collected this year compared with last year’s $34,000 and 1,125 participants, nearly double last year’s 610 hikers.
“That’s the news I wanted to share,” Marble said. “When we put this year’s budget together, we’d hoped to raise $50,000 but figured that’s too big a goal to reach. We thought $40,000 would have been ambitious so we budgeted $40,000” in hike revenues.
Marble credits the success of this year’s annual hike, the 15th so far, to “a combination of a fantastic leadership team and compassion in the community that’s always supported this.”
“The other thing I wanted people to know was that because all of the raffle prizes were donated and because we got free or reduced rates for promotions, advertising [and other goods and services], we were able to keep the cost [of hosting the hike] to less than 5 percent of what we raised,” he said.
That means more than 95 percent of the proceeds will go directly to the shelter’s $515,000 annual operating budget, Marble said.
Marble said earlier this month that the shelter last year served about 430 people who stayed a collective 11,300 nights in the 33-bed shelter — representing more than 90 percent of capacity.
Another 1,500 were served through the day program. The number of people coming in for food has gone up this year, Marble said.
The additional operating dollars are badly needed by the shelter, which often is filled to capacity on cold nights.
In the wintertime, as many as five cots are set up in the television room to accommodate some of the overflow. The shelter occasionally is forced to turn people away for lack of space.
To help cover the demand, Marble said, the shelter’s board of directors has earmarked $2,000 to convert the basement, now used for storage, into living space.
The plan is to add five more beds, he said, adding that he hopes to get the work completed in time for winter.