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Wheeler Mission sees big crowd as temperature drops

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – At Wheeler Mission in downtown Indianapolis Wednesday, the hallways were packed. Nearly 280 men were expected to spend the night as temperatures dipped well below zero. Among them was Craig Liparoto.

“This is my second night here,” he said. Liparoto decided this kind of cold is too cold to stay outside. “Even if you cover up (outside,) you wake up and you’re frozen and you try to find somewhere warm to stay alive. But if there isn’t anywhere … you just freeze to death.”

Wheeler spokesperson Steve Kerr said on nights like Wednesday, there is no such thing as “at capacity.” They’ll take in as many people as there are who walk through the door. Space may get tight, but at least it’s warm.

And there’s more space than before. This week, a new men’s shelter opened early because of the sub-zero temperatures. The Wheeler Mission expansion includes a 12,000-square-foot addition to the existing Emergency Shelter for Men on East Market Street. There are modernized restrooms, laundry facilities, and now 200 permanent beds in place.

There is also an elevator that will allow those who use wheelchairs to have access to the sleeping quarters upstairs. In the past, those men would have to sleep in their wheelchairs. Craig Liparoto is one of them.

“It’s great! A luxury,” he said. “I’m grateful.”