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Indianapolis reduces number of beds for low barrier homeless shelter

Originally, the city was planning on having 250 beds available. Now, the shelter will have 150 instead.
Posted at 10:08 PM, May 17, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — The City of Indianapolis is reducing the number of beds it originally planned for a new homeless shelter.

Originally, the city was planning on having 250 beds available. Now, the shelter will have 150 instead.

"The decrease in the number of beds is due in part to feedback from our homeless service provider partners in the community,” Andrew Merkley, the administrator of the division of homelessness and eviction prevention for the city of Indianapolis, said. “They advised us focus on the need of permanent supportive housing as the answer to homelessness."

One of the service providers that gave feedback was Wheeler Mission. The organization has been serving the state of Indiana longer than any other homeless provider in the state. They are also the largest homeless shelter.

"In the winter time, we see numbers all the way up to over 1,000 people a day,” Brian Crispin, Senior Director of Community Relations and Development at Wheeler Mission, said.

The organization also provides programming for people in need. They offer everything from addiction counseling to career help.

However, in the winter, because the shelter is usually at capacity, that programming is hard to come by.

"Winter is hard on our staff, it's hard on our facilities,” Crispin said. “Our goal is to allow our guests to go through long-term programming, and in the winter, it's hard for us to conduct programming when we have that many people inside our walls.”

The city's goal is to provide shelter for people who may not be able to seek services at places like Wheeler Mission, which is religiously affiliated. They are also often not able to offer shelter to people in certain situations.

"Who are the people living in shelters with pets,” Merkley said. “How many families are there where it's just a father as the head of household. The data that came showed us a number more around that 150 mark."

To help those that are un-housed, the city plans on creating a program called master leasing, where the city would lease apartments that could be lived in by people experiencing homelessness.

The city says they had also originally planned on having a health care component and more space for un-housed people, but due to funding that too was scaled back.

The city has a goal of breaking ground on the low barrier shelter this fall.