After getting the all clear from the building inspector Monday, officials at Wheeler Mission wasted no time in opening their newly renovated men’s emergency shelter Tuesday.
Talk about timing. After a winter blast of at least 4 inches in Central Indiana, the National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory and warning for Wednesday through Thursday. The wind chill factor is expect to drop as low as 30 below zero.
The new facility, located at 520 E. Market St., sits right next door to the mission’s former shelter and will allow the entire facility to improve and expand its offerings.
“When we opened [Tuesday afternoon], 170 guys moved from the old day room to the new space,” said Steve Kerr, Chief Development Officer for Wheeler Mission Ministries. “The guys were led on a tour to find new lockers, new showers, and new beds.”
The new shelter facility features a day room that is nearly 4 times the size of the old room. Wheeler clients gather there during the day to wait for meals, meet with case managers or simply get out of the cold. The pad also has new laundry facilities and a heat room.
“The heat room allows the guys to place their clothes on a hanger for the night while the shower and get new pajamas to wear for the night,” said Kerr. “At night, the room heats to 160 degrees, killing all bugs that might be in their clothing. They get up the next morning and can get dressed in clothes that are insect free.”
But according to Kerr, that isn’t even the best part of the new shelter space.
“ The new space has an elevator,” said Kerr. “ Last [Monday] night we had two guys in wheelchairs. They had to sleep either in their chairs or on a mat on the first floor. Tonight [Tuesday] they get to sleep in a bed.”
The new space is only the first phase of a multi-tiered plan to update and expand the shelter. Kerr says phase two will begin this spring.
“We will go back into the existing facility, gut it, and remodel the kitchen and dining hall to accommodate more meals and more people,” said Kerr.
The old dormitory will be renovated to increase the overall bed capacity of the facility from 124 to 200.
Kerr says the renovation project has been in the works for the last three years and thanks to the generosity of the community it is happening without debt. The mission was able to raise enough money to cover all renovation costs. All repairs and renovations are projected to be completed by early fall.
Mother Nature demanded the new mission facility open immediately and officials were happy to oblige (with the building inspector’s blessing). However, Kerr says mission officials will host a formal dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 21.