Wheeler Mission announces plans for much-needed expansion

More first time homeless women and children

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WISH) — The city of Indianapolis does not have a city-sponsored homeless shelter. The doors of Wheeler Mission’s Center for Women and Children depends on donations to keep the doors open, but a $12 million expansion of the facility is being funded in part by the Lilly Endownment.

Four weeks ago Audrita Kennedy was living on the street. Kennedy said this is not the first time she has been homeless, but certainly hopes this is the last.

“They helped me both times I’m looking for permanent housing because I am disabled,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy’s story is not uncommon; her disability payments aren’t enough to pay market rate rent for an apartment. She is however one of the lucky ones with a temporary place to live.

“Our numbers have continued to rise in somewhat shocking ways, last winter when we opened our doors for what is called winter contingency we saw unprecedented right out of the gate and they stayed that way,” said Colleen Gore the Director of Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children.

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The expansion of the Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children will require $12 million, so far only $7.4 million has been raised.

The new building will significantly increase the number of people they can serve.

“We will triple our emergency services capacity and we will also triple our emergency services for families, we will have a fifty percent increase in programming things we can offer,” said Gore.

That includes 30 additional transitional apartments, 164 new permanent beds and 84 new family emergency shelter beds. The new building will extend into the current parking lot and beyond.

Another cause for alarm is the age of the homeless population.

“Several of the women staying here had oxygen tanks with them, they had wheelchairs and walkers with them,” said Gore.

And women with children are becoming homeless at an alarming rate, the reasons vary, but Gore found a trend in first time homeless women.

“We just did a quick and dirty survey when they were here over the winter , first time here, why are you here, eviction was the number one answer,” explained Gore.

In June Wheeler Mission turned away 1,100 requests for service. Just last month the number continued to climb to 1,300 calls for service that could not be met.