A winter contingency shelter will be opening to serve up to 40 women experiencing homelessness through a collaboration between Wheeler Mission, Monroe County government and the City of Bloomington.
The shelter will open sometime this month and will likely remain open until March 2021 to serve the community during the coldest months of the year.
Beverly Calender-Anderson, director of the Community and Family Resources Department, is a part of the group that planned the center after performing outreach work to determine the community's need for such a center.
The group consists of the major shelter directors in the Bloomington area and representatives from the Bloomington Police Department, Bloomington Board of Health and IU Health Bloomington Hospital. Calender-Anderson said the group had been asked by Mayor John Hamilton to review the needs of groups at risk during the pandemic.
“We know the pandemic disproportionately affects our most vulnerable residents — and our social service agencies have been working tirelessly to serve their needs,” Hamilton said in a press release about the shelter.
Shelter directors and shelter outreach workers from the Bloomington area compiled their lists of women they knew who currently do not have a place to live. Through this, they determined around 40 women are currently living in tents in the Bloomington area, most of them over the age of 45.
“Sometimes people need shelter for a week and they go stay with family and sometimes there may be people who stay there the entire winter,” Calender-Anderson said. “Like most of the shelters in town, the ultimate goal is to help people become self-sustaining.”
Wheeler Mission can also offer case management staff to help with employment opportunities and other goals.
The creation of this temporary shelter comes after the closure of Wheeler Mission’s Center for Women & Children in Bloomington in July. The center was forced to close its doors due to a shortage in funds and stopped serving the 25 to 30 women it typically would.
“It was really just a question of what was going to happen because we don’t have the women’s shelter anymore,” Calender-Anderson said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced local shelters to cut down on occupancy to allow guests to socially distance. According to the press release from the city, there has been a 25% drop in occupancy across the emergency shelters in the area.
Wheeler Mission will continue to practice the health protocols they had been using at their Center for Men. Guests and employees at their shelters have their temperature taken every day. Social distancing guidelines and mask wearing is enforced.
“Wheeler Mission is an excellent teacher of COVID-19 hygiene protocol,” Calender-Anderson said. “They really will keep women healthy and safe and warm.”
Chris-Michael Morrison, Wheeler Mission’s director of advancement in the Bloomington area, said they have only recorded one COVID-19 case among their guests since the start of the pandemic.
“We recognize the importance of keeping our guests safe, keep them well and to give them a step forward toward stability and independence,” Morrison said.
Wheeler Mission is currently hiring for certain positions at the women’s shelter. Those interested can apply here. The center can open once the last positions are filled this month.
In addition, they are seeking donations of items such as blankets, pillows, washcloths and hand warmers. Donations can be left at the Wheeler Mission Bloomington Center for Men at 215 S. Westplex Ave., Bloomington, IN, 47404, or made online here.
“I love when people collaborate and get things done,” Calender-Anderson said. “This was one where we could all agree on the goals and how to do it.”
Women interested in resources at the contingency center can visit Wheeler Mission’s Center for Men from 5 to 9 p.m.