As Central Indiana braces for snow, extreme cold and deadly wind chills, Wheeler Mission is prepared for record numbers of men, women, and children seeking shelter. Wheeler Mission, founded in 1893, has five service-providing facilities with 383 total available beds, 146 are designated as emergency shelter beds - 124 for men and 22 for women. The remaining 237 beds are reserved for homeless men and women who have chosen to enroll in one of their long-term programs.
In a new state of affairs which Wheeler's President Rick Alvis calls "the new norm," all 146 emergency shelter beds are full year round. According to Alvis, "In years' past, we've always had beds available during the warm weather months but that is no longer the case. We are now above capacity year round. That's why we're so concerned about this upcoming storm and deadly temperatures."
With the snow and extreme cold in the forecast, Wheeler representatives predict they will house at least 365 homeless men, women and children in their emergency shelters over the next several days. This is in addition to the 150 or so in long-term programs. "With these weather predictions, we have to be prepared for record breaking numbers. We will find a place for anyone needing shelter. That means hundreds of men, women and children sleeping on mats on our floors, but they will be indoors and safe." Alvis said.
Wheeler coordinates the Winter Contingency Program for our community. This program ensures that every man, woman, and child in the metropolitan area can find a safe place to sleep and a nourishing meal during the cold months. Wheeler works with all participating agencies to see that their sites are filled to capacity, and then provides overflow lodging and meals to anyone in need.
Compared to a year ago, Wheeler is currently experiencing a ten percent increase in meals served and a twelve percent increase in nights of shelter provided to the homeless. In 2013, they served more than 350,000 meals and provided more than 160,000 nights of shelter.