Wheeler Mission readies for Drumstick Dash as homeless need continues to rise

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Thanksgiving is a big time of year for Wheeler Mission as hundreds of Hoosiers participate in the Drum Stick Dash.

Preparations are already underway for the holiday at the men's shelter. They aren't sure how many they'll be serving, but they do know it will be one of the largest sittings they've ever had.

"There is a crisis here in Indianapolis that most don't ever see," explained Rick Alvis, president and CEO for Wheeler Missions Ministries.

He's talking about the ever-increasing amount of homeless in the city.

"December 1, 2014, we had 90 men in our homeless shelter. On December 1, 2016, we had 360. I really pray and hope we don't have 720 people on December 1, 2017," he added.

It's normal for the numbers to go up in the winter, but now it's showing signs of staying high and even escalating.

"We have added a good 50 beds to this room. It used to be the sides but they filled the room in with beds so we actually have the most since we reopened. As you can see, it's pretty full no matter how many beds we put in here," Collin Kirby told us during a tour of the facility.

And if they aren't at Wheeler, then they're out on the streets or in the malls of Indianapolis.

"We are handling 52 percent of all the homeless population here in Indianapolis," he noted, citing a study done by Baylor University.

And the fear is that number will only increase.

"We've got the opioid epidemic that is going on. The job situation, it's getting stronger but a lot with unemployment. Then we have people with mental health problems," he said.

Wheeler Mission's biggest fundraiser, the Drumstick Dash, happens Saturday - just when they need it the most.