With this campaign, we have a rare opportunity to dramatically change the lives of women and children affected by homelessness for many years to come.
Every day around Indianapolis, women and children become homeless. Often, these women flee to the streets to avoid domestic violence, bringing their children with them. Reportedly, about 50% of homeless women and children nationwide are on the streets due to abuse — physical or sexual abuse, physical or emotional negligence, exposure to violence and more.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless, families with children are one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. This is especially true in Marion County. According to the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention Homeless county findings, children and youth make up about 30% of the local homeless population.
Finding yourself on the streets, homeless, especially with your children, is both frightening and discouraging. That is why, back in 1893, Wheeler Mission opened its doors as a home for expectant mothers, founded by women for women. Today, Wheeler Mission is known for its men’s shelter in the heart of Indianapolis. But the organization also provides hope and restoration to homeless women and children at its center on East Michigan Street. However, that space has proved too small for increasing demand.
As part of its recent 125th anniversary, Wheeler Mission launched the Building for Change Campaign to support a multi-purpose expansion project for the current Center for Women & Children. The new multi-story facility will be built on the northwest corner of East Michigan Street and North LaSalle Street, immediate next to Wheeler’s existing 10-story building. Construction is scheduled to begin in this month, and the expanded center will nearly triple current capacity.
With this campaign, we have a rare opportunity to dramatically change the lives of women and children affected by homelessness for many years to come. As fundraising efforts continue and awareness of this crisis is brought to light, the community must come together to help restore dignity and hope in the lives of those suffering from homelessness.
Through continued conversations with community leaders and elected officials, in addition to support from Lilly Endowment and Mayor Joe Hogsett through New Markets Tax Credits from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, there is hope for homeless women and children in our city. Individuals have come forward to support this campaign as well. Because of the overwhelming support from community members and supporters, we are more than halfway to the $13 million goal. But, more fundraising is still needed.
We must continue to work together to provide solutions for this ever-worsening crisis, for the Indianapolis homeless population is not composed of faceless people. Every one is someone’s grandparent, parent or child. We must view them as neighbors in need and channel our inner Hoosier hospitality mindset to change the trajectory of homelessness in Indianapolis forever.
Together, we can help the most helpless among us. The time to act is now.
Rick Alvis is Wheeler Mission president and CEO. Allison Melangton is Wheeler Mission Building for Change campaign chair.