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Homeless women scramble to find housing with shelter closure looming

Women scramble to find housing with shelter set to close in Bloomington, Indiana

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — The Wheeler Mission Women’s Shelter in Bloomington will be closing on Sep. 1, leaving the women who rely on the shelter scrambling to find a place to live.

Joyce Brown is one of the women trying to find a place to stay. “It is scary being out on the street. I don’t know hardly anybody in Bloomington,” Brown said.

She’s not alone. Sixteen other women staying at the shelter are facing the same struggle. “We’re all trying our best to have another place to go. You know, we’re all worried about it,” Brown said.

She became homeless in July. With Wheeler Mission closing, she has been trying to find a bed somewhere else, as well as a path to more stable housing.

“There’s a lot of waiting lists everywhere you go,” Brown said. When I-Team 8 commented that Brown has been running into roadblock after roadblock, she agreed.

Dana Jones, the director of the Wheeler Mission in Bloomington, has worked with people experiencing homelessness for 24 years. He says closing is one of the most difficult decisions it’s had to make.

“It is heartbreaking, heart-wrenching. It’s kept me up many nights because I knew the gap we’d leave behind,” Jones said.

Jones told I-Team 8 Wheeler Mission is the only shelter that provides services strictly for women. Since the pandemic, they have sheltered 365 women.

In 2021, the shelter received funding from other organizations, local government, and donors to stay open for a year. The money was stretched until now, but funding has run out.

During the same time period, they housed 1,400 men at their men’s shelter in Bloomington, which is where they are increasing their focus now.

“We’re going to throw a lot more resources at deepening our services to that greater population of those in need,” Jones said.

Wheeler Mission says they want to keep the women’s shelter open, but there just isn’t enough money. I-Team 8 asked what Jones would need to keep the women’s shelter open.

“Well, we’d need a lot of help,” said Jones.

If Wheeler Mission were to get funding and stay open, Brown says she would love to stay there as she continues to get back on her feet. “They’ve been so sweet to me,” Brown said.

Wheeler Mission says the goal is to reopen the shelter in the future, but are uncertain when that will be.