Longtime Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann – known by many as “Swannie” – received the 2024 Access to Justice Award from the Muskie Fund for Legal Services June 5 at Ocean Gateway Portland.

“Mark has pulled this agency along from what it was to what it is now,” said David Kreisler, whose father, Joe Kreisler, founded a soup kitchen called Preble Street in a church basement in 1975. “Mark has kind of made things happen in a way that only he can do.”

Today, Preble Street is a comprehensive social service agency providing housing and shelters, emergency food programs, health services, street outreach, anti-trafficking services, teen services and advocacy for systemic solutions.

“Some groups focus on policy and advocacy, and other focus on direct service,” said Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice. “But Preble Street – led by Mark – appreciates the importance of both and making the connections between people’s lived experiences and the barriers they face in their everyday lives and the systemic policy solutions to address those barriers on a large scale.”

With offices in Portland, Bangor and Lewiston and nearly 300 employees and more than 1,000 volunteers, Preble Street operates shelters for women, teens and people with complex medical, mental health and substance use-related needs. Preble Street’s Housing First programs provide long-term housing for survivors of chronic homelessness. Preble Street also has support programs for veterans, people who have experienced trafficking and teens and young adults with nowhere else to live.

“Mark Swann has made a career out of challenging unjust systems,” said Steve Rowe, the former attorney general who was the 2023 Access to Justice honoree.


The Muskie Fund for Legal Services is a nonprofit named in honor of former Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, who advocated for the legal needs of low-income Mainers in the late 1980s. The 2024 event raised over $84,000 for a half dozen legal assistance organizations: Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Legal Services for Maine Elders, Maine Equal Justice, Pine Tree Legal Assistance and Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project.

In accepting the Fund’s Access to Justice Award, Swann didn’t waste an opportunity to appeal to the gathering of lawyers for their professional support. “We need lawyers to help us advocate and to push back when anti-poverty organizations are bullied,” he said. “Lawyers have influence and power, so use it to help people who have none of those things.”

Swann, 61, has been a leader at Preble Street since he joined the nonprofit in 1991. He has also served on several local boards, including Spring Harbor Hospital, York-Cumberland Housing, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project and the Center for Prevention of Hate Violence.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at amyparadysz@gmail.com.

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