Area homeless shelter sees spike in 2013 numbers

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As the bitter cold snap continues, more people without homes are seeking shelter.

Wheeler Mission Ministries has eight locations around the state of Indiana and President Rick Alvis says the agency is experiencing a ten percent increase in the number of people who rely on their services.

That includes people like Curtis Appleton.

"I want to get my own [place] but the reality is there's nowhere else to go," he said.

Appleton is one of a growing number of people just trying to survive.

"I want to get somewhere and be stable and it's kind of hard with the economy," he said.

While he's able to find work, he says he only gets about a dozen hours a week.

"It's kind of hard," Appleton said, adding that it's not enough to pay the bills let alone pay for a place to call home.

The Wheeler Mission opens its door to people like Curtis every day, but the place that offers refuge is in its own crunch.

"It gets pretty full during the day and even in the evening it gets fuller. It is wall to wall people," Alvis said while giving Eyewitness News a tour Sunday afternoon.

The last major upgrade to the building came in 1988. Food, laundry, and a living room are on the first floor; showers and dormitories are on the second floor. There is no elevator.

When space runs out upstairs, crews have to get creative downstairs. There are 124 cots upstairs and when they fill up the first floor cafeteria becomes another dormitory as mats replace tables.

Alvis says they can accommodate up to 200 people at the East Market Street building, but there is good news.

In the coming weeks, officials plan to expand into an old print shop that's next door.

Plans include a larger cafeteria along with an elevator and dozens of more beds. The renovation and expansion should be completed by the summer of 2014.

While the shelter can always use monetary and clothing donations, Alvis says food is the greatest need. The East Market Street facility feeds up to three times the number of men who stay there on a nightly basis.

More about the Wheeler Mission.