Wheeler Mission Center for Women and Children Bloomington will close July 5 due to a lack of crucial funding.
Marybeth Hamilton, Bloomington’s director at Wheeler Mission Center, said 25 to 30 women stay at the shelter every night. Women staying at the shelter have access to meals, the day room, showers, case management and transportation. During winter months, children are allowed to stay overnight at the shelter as well. All services are free.
In 2015, the shelter was taken over by the Wheeler Mission Center of Indianapolis. Before that, another organization ran the shelter. However, Wheeler took over when the organization could no longer fund it. The shelter relies on local and private donations but there have not been enough donations over the past five years to keep it open. Hamilton said Wheeler Mission’s Indianapolis location has been forced to support the funding needed in Bloomington.
Wheeler Mission Center provides women with three different types of services. Women are allowed to stay short term or long term depending on what program they’re enrolled in.
The emergency shelter program allows women temporary stay for up to 45 days. The foundation wellness program is provided for women who cannot seek traditional employment. These women are often on disability or retirement, which prohibit them from having a job. The foundation work readiness program provides women seeking a traditional job with assistance. Women are also taught how to balance general costs of living.
Employees at the shelter have been assisting women in finding new places to stay following the July 5 closing date. All women have been given the opportunity to relocate to the Wheeler Mission Center in Indianapolis.
“Although all women are given the opportunity to relocate to Indianapolis, some of them have lived in Bloomington their entire lives and don’t want to leave,” Hamilton said.
Many women are also relocating to other shelters in southern Indiana. Some women who decided they aren’t transferring to another location have been able to find housing with the assistance of case management.
“In the long run this will have a negative impact on women because it’s very needed,” Hamilton said. “Every woman has received assistance, and we’re trying our best to ensure everyone will have a place to stay.”
The Wheeler Mission Shelter for Men Bloomington is currently allowing women to make day visits. Women visiting the men’s shelter are provided with food and case management.
Women haven’t been served at the men’s shelter in the past year. Dana Jones, director of Wheeler Mission Shelter for Men, said this will be a new adjustment for now. The men’s shelter is responsible for making meals daily for the women’s shelter and shipping it to their center.
“We are hopeful we’ll be able to unsuspend the women’s program if funding rises,” Jones said.
Aside from Wheeler Mission Center, there are a few other shelters in Bloomington that accept women, but some, like Middle Way House and New Hope for Families have specific requirements such as being a victim of domestic abuse or having a family. Shalom Community Center, however, has openings for women in their overnight shelter, A Friend’s Place. The center provides hunger relief, day and overnight shelter, case management and other essentials.