Back in the mid-1990s, the event was truly a hike, first at Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park and then briefly at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.
“The thought was: We’ll have it tough for one day, but [the homeless] have it tough every day,” shelter director Dennis Marble said.
But the annual event, the shelter’s largest fundraiser and the best chance to promote the facility’s mission to the public, struggled to catch on because it was too far away from its host community.
So Marble and his staff brought the event back to the streets of Bangor to remind people of the ever-increasing demand for homeless services.
This year’s Hike for the Homeless will be held on Saturday, April 9, at four locations: Husson University in Bangor, departing at 10:30 a.m.; the Cianchette Building in Brewer, departing at 10:30 a.m.; the Veazie Community School, departing at 10 a.m.; and Hampden Academy, departing at 9:30 a.m.
Groups of participants will start at one of those four locations and walk toward Bangor, eventually converging on the Bangor Waterfront for a cookout and raffle.
Last year’s festival, one of the most successful, drew 1,100 hikers and raised about $50,000. This year, Marble has his sights on 2,000 participants and $60,000 in donations.
The Bangor Area Homeless Shelter has a funding model unlike any other emergency housing facility in the state. Only about a quarter of its annual operating budget of about $540,000 comes from state or federal funds. The rest is made up of foundation grants and private donations.
That’s what makes the Hike for the Homeless so crucial, Marble said. Nearly all of what is raised Saturday will support the shelter’s operating budget and help provide shelter to hundreds of homeless people every year.
The shelter employs a full-time staff of 12 employees, who are augmented by dozens of volunteers to keep the facility open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
A donation is not required to participate in the hike, but hikers are are asked to seek pledges. Additionally, raffle tickets will be sold and drawn later in the day Saturday for prizes including an L.L. Bean kayak, a Nintendo Wii gaming system and a GPS.
To register for the event or for more information, visit www.hikingforthehomeless.org. Same day registration also is accepted.