Indianapolis-based Wheeler Mission will today dedicate its renovated Center for Women & Children on the city’s near east side. The nonprofit has invested nearly $14 million into the expansion, which triples the center’s capacity. President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Alvis says the project, which has been three years in the making, will allow the organization to provide more and better services for women and children in need.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Alvis said the nonprofit had been running beyond capacity for about five years before the idea for the expansion came.
“‘We’re going to be able to almost triple the number of people we’re housing at the current time,” said Alvis. “We had a lot of people on the floor in our gymnasium and we certainly planned not to use the gymnasium anymore, but have people in beds so they don’t have to sleep on the floor and have a place for kids to go.”
The expanded facility features 164 new permanent beds, including 40 emergency shelter beds for single women. Alvis says one of the improvements is the addition of bathrooms near where the beds are located.
“In the old site, the women had to go up a floor or down a floor to go to the bathroom and that’s not a very good situation when you’re new to a facility, you’re homeless and you don’t really know where to go in this strange building in the middle of the night. So, it’s nice having those bathrooms and showers right off of the sleeping areas.”
The facility also includes a new, secure childcare space, as well as an indoor play place for families. Wheeler Mission has also grown its staff to 15 full-time and three part-time employees to increase the staff-to-guest ratio, as well as security and program support.
Plans for the expansion were first announced in October 2018. Wheeler Mission launched a $12 million capital campaign, which included contributions from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc., the Indianapolis Colts and the Irsay family.
“We’re up to $14.8 million right now,” said Alvis. “About $10 million of it is the building that has been constructed. We have a contingency fund in there to help ramp up our staffing needs over the next couple of years.”
Alvis says the new facility will be more COVID friendly by creating more opportunities for social distancing. He says the ultimate goal for the organization is to get the people who use Wheeler Mission’s services into permanent housing.
The nonprofit says the facility also features new space for medical clinics, an expanded education center, and double the capacity for programs such as counseling, job training, addiction recovery and more.
Alvis says the nonprofit had been running beyond capacity for about five years before the idea for the expansion came.