Wheeler Mission to expand programming, as neighbor voices concerns

Wheeler Mission to expand programming, as neighbor voices concerns
Wheeler Mission to expand programming, as neighbor voices concerns

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the origin of the funds Wheeler Mission used for the purchase.

Wheeler Mission in Bloomington is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an expansion, and organizers hope the additional space will produce better outcomes for its homeless clients, many of whom are struggling with addiction and mental illness.

The nonprofit organization in the past 16 months has purchased two additional buildings on Westplex Avenue, in part to spread out its living quarters. The organization also plans to expand its programming areas to help people stay or get back on their feet. Officials expect renovations to be completed at the end of next year.

“It’s going to be fantastic,” said Dana Jones, director of Wheeler Mission Ministries in Bloomington. “We’ve wanted this for a long time.”

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The nonprofit struggled to provide adequate space even before last year, Jones said, but the pandemic, which required greater physical distances between clients, made the situation worse.

The organization, at 215 Westplex Ave., in June 2020 bought the building at 135 S. Westplex Ave., which formerly housed a bearing manufacturing business. Wheeler Mission uses that building for its commercial laundry, bathroom facilities and a day room, where people can get water, watch TV, get help from a case manager and access the internet for job searches or online therapy. The building also serves as a warming shelter in the winter and a cooling shelter in the summer.

The three Wheeler Mission properties in Bloomington, including the longtime facility at right and the two newer acquisitions at left.

In June, Wheeler Mission also bought the building at 201 S. Westplex Ave., which formerly housed a Jazzercise center. That building is in between the other two buildings the nonprofit already owned.

Wheeler Mission serves men on its Westplex campus but also has a nearby women’s shelter that is funded through August 2022 thanks to the city, county and United Way. Wheeler, which has been operating shelters and programs for the needy in Indianapolis for more than 100 years, added Bloomington to its operations in 2015, when it merged with Backstreet Mission and Agape House.

Jones said the newest Bloomington structure will house 84 beds, showers and restrooms as well as another day room and an outside courtyard with lockers. The beds will be moved into the new building from the Wheeler Mission’s Center for Men, which is now in the southernmost of the three buildings.

“We’re not adding beds,” Jones said. “We’re adding space.”

He said Wheeler Mission obtained a $550,000 Federal Home Loan grant, and used $350,000 of it to buy the property. That leaves $200,000 for renovations, though Jones said the nonprofit soon will begin fundraising for another $200,000 that likely will be needed to complete the project. While the 11 Federal Home Loan banks are overseen by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, an independent regulatory agency established by the U.S. Congress, they are supported by private funds, meaning no tax dollars are involved.

He said Wheeler Mission hopes the additional space will provide

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