LEADING QUESTIONS: Wheeler CEO focuses, plans more beds

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses and civic leaders to talk shop about their latest challenges and the habits that lead to success.

Rick Alvis, 58, recently celebrated his 20th year at the helm of Wheeler Mission Ministries Inc., the local nondenominational Christian social-services organization. In the video below, the Wheeler president and CEO describes the tumult that awaited him when he joined the organization in 1990 and how the resulting strategy of tightly defining the group’s mission has helped the agency weather a more recent crisis.

Although perhaps best known for its men’s mission at 245 N. Delaware St., Wheeler operates eight facilities across central and southern Indiana serving homeless and needy men, women and children. In addition to providing daily shelter and meals for the homeless, Wheeler also offers longer-term housing for those transitioning to employment and stable housing, as well as medical care and addiction-recovery programs.

Its main challenge during cold-weather months, however, is coordinating the Winter Contingency Program for the city for Indianapolis, which guarantees housing and meals for the homeless once all other shelters in the city are filled to capacity. In addition to long-term residents, Wheeler facilities house as many as 400 to 500 people per night during winter months.

Men seeking shelter for a single night typically are housed at the Wheeler Mission Lighthouse Center at 520 E. Market St., which has 124 beds and room for another 46 people to sleep on the floor.

Wheeler shelter 15col The Wheeler Mission Lighthouse Center at 520 E. Market St. is slated for a $1.5 million expansion and renovation. (IBJ Photo/ Mason King)

Now Wheeler is planning to expand the two-story Center by 5,000 square feet, building a two story-addition to the north side of the facility and renovating some of the existing building. The cost of the project is estimated at $1.5 million, which Wheeler hopes to raise in an upcoming capital campaign.

The expansion would increase the number of beds to 200. “We’re trying to avoid putting people on the floor,” Alvis said.

Work likely would begin in spring 2012, Alvis said, after the campaign was well under way. Wheeler is eyeing several projects for the fundraising effort, including building a new multipurpose building and more lodges at its Camp Hunt facility for addiction recovery programs near Bloomington.

“We’re doing a directional study right now to find out how much we can raise,” Alvis said.

In 2008, Wheeler embarked on a fundraising program that had a secondary goal of creating a reserves fund much like an endowment. In the following video, Alvis discusses the fate of that initiative, as well as several other issues related to the group and local homeless population.


  • God Bless
    God Bless Rick Alvis and Wheeler Mission. Keep up the great work!!
  • Absolutely correct
    Add more beds for the homeless and you'll attract more homeless to the area. Someone needs to work on addressing the homeless who break into vacant buildings sometimes starting fires and wrecking the buildings, endangering neighbors, and severely damaging neighborhoods.

    With the county full of low-demand, low-value neighborhoods, and struggling to raise enough revenue to provide basic services, it makes no sense to continue to provide homeless shelters in places where property values and taxes could otherwise be rising.
  • There are much better locations.
    He needs to be focusing on putting more beds outside of downtown. The neighborhood he is expanding his operation in is trying hard to become a destination area. It is really hard to create the positive movement needed when there is a large homeless and mentally ill population milling about.

    Homelessness is a problem, it needs a solution, but it needs more thought.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!