Wheeler staying put downtown

February 19, 2008
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Wheeler MissionWheeler Mission Ministries has no plans to sell its prime downtown real estate, despite financial troubles that have led the not-for-profit to close its eastside operation. Wheeler said it plans to close its facility at 3208 E. Michigan St. and lay off 13 employees. The charity's headquarters are at 245 N. Delaware St., a prime parcel near One Indiana Square, Mass Ave and recent restaurant arrivals BARcelona Tapas and India Garden. "We're not selling anything, just reorganizing," said Jane Hudson, a financial associate at the Mission. Wheeler plans to transfer a youth program and a separate family-service program to Shepherd Community Center at the end of the month. Without the cuts, the ministry would have faced a $342,000 deficit in its $6.2 million budget. With the cuts, Wheeler leaders expect to end the fiscal year with a $162,000 deficit. Should Wheeler leave downtown to shore up its finances?
  • That's exactly what i've been preaching. They could literally make millions of dollars if they just sold downtown & moved elsewhere! They're being rather stubborn if you ask me.
  • The downtown location enables them to serve less privileged people who are located downtown. As a resident of downtown, I know for a fact there are quite a few people who utilize Wheeler Mission's aid and the majority of those people do not have a car to drive elsewhere. I think it's commendable that Wheeler is staying put, even faced with being able to profit from selling their facility.
  • They should move to another part of downtown that isn't such prime real estate.
  • I would have to imagine there are more poor and homeless people on the eastside than downtown. So instead of stubbornly staying downtown at the expense of their ES operations, why wouldn't they sell the DT property and keep the ES facility open? This doesn't make much sense.
  • I fully agree with Common Sense.

    Wheeler is now apparently planning to let the former Dearborn Hotel on East Michigan go empty again, a blow for the Near Eastside.

    Their finances and their clients might be better served by selling the pricey downtown real estate and using the East Michigan location to deliver their services. If they own both locations, the sale of the downtown site could provide some capital for expanding/improving the East Michigan site as well as an endowment to cushion against future downturns.
  • Absolutely, there is room for compromise. They need to look around and find alternative locations in the downtown area. They are no different than Grandma in the big house who can no longer afford to heat it. Seems they have a huge asset which they could convert to cash and still serve their clients.
  • Any suggestions for those alternative locations in the downtown area? Which part of downtown is easily accessible by bus or walking, is safe, and will support zoning for a homeless shelter? I can't imagine groups like NESCO, SEND, Concord, Near-North, etc. supporting that request.
  • They could sell the downtown property to help more people around the city in places that need it more. They seem rather stubborn about this even though by closing other locations they are actually harming the idea of sheltering the less fortunate and more about stopping development downtown. I see a lot more homeless people on my side of the city then downtown which is mostly beggars. If they sold the property they could use the money to help so many more people. It seems rather selfish actually.
  • uh, Concord and SEND are federally funded neighborhoodbased community development corporations. Affordable housing is one of their main goals, and improving the neighborhood, of course. Seems that housing the homeless and bringing in a not-for-profit corporation would fit in these parameters.

    The central part of the city makes the most sense because it offers the best public transportation. How many of these homeless men are vets? Maybe Wheeler needs to relocate near the VA Hospital. They know who their clients are.
  • I fully agree with both Thundermutt, Dave & Helen. It seems that it would make sense to sell the Delaware Street location and relocate close to the VA hospital. Keeping their east Michigan street location open. Seems like a no-brainer but I don't have all the facts. It would certainly help the corner of Delaware and New York. . . . .
  • How much is there downtown property worth?
    It seems to me that if they really wanted to help everybody they would have small facilities located on each side of town to help with job search, medical needs and housing. Look at the areas near Lafayette Square, Washington Street (east or west), East 38th Street.
    There is poverty in those areas and a lot of empty buildings. They could still keep smaller ops downtown. Needless to say that would help with the panhandling,, begging and general nusiance that some of the homeless are known for downtown.
  • So basically we facilitate the movement of the homeless people out to the already poverty stricken areas so that we don't have to see or deal with them downtown? While the property on Delaware may be more valuable than what would be deemed appropriate for a shelter, there is a definite need for a shelter in the centrally located area of downtown. I do not consider it a wise investment strategy to shed valuable real estate and purchase something that will only go down in value over the years, whether it is abandoned buildings on the east side or otherwise. That is a short term solution to a budgeting problem that is not likely to go away.
  • Why should downtown be the magnet for homelessness, Natalie? Homeless people need supportive services in an environment where they are likely to succeed in shaking whatever their pathology, addiction, or problem is.

    If they do manage to lift themselves up to a functioning and sustainable state...employed, clothed, fed and housed...that isn't going to happen downtown. I have a college degree and a decent income and can't afford to live downtown.
  • I agree with thundermutt here. Being downtown with access to so many pedestrians makes panhandling/begging a business that is more profitable than anything. I remember when I was in High School and we caught beggars from wheeler leave the Mission area and go to their new cars in the Circle Center parking lot. We had heard of this thing going on, so we followed a couple. People who really need the services find a way to access them, and with smaller missions located in the most poverty-stricken areas also puts them closer to more realistic employment/long-term housing prospects.

    This is a win/win. A windfall of cash could bolster the mission's services, and put the mission closer to those it is supposed to be helping. And downtown gets a new central tract for development, as well as probably increasing the property values of the surrounding area - which could spur further redevelopment. Remember, Natalie, these people are HOMELESS, so they aren't attached to a particular area. And right now is the right time to cash out, as property values downtown are at a high, while suburban values are being depressed. When the housing market rights itself, the larger number of properties located in a more diversified set of locations gives them a stronger financial position in the long run.
  • I feel for Wheeler. They have done incredible things for this city, even helping my brother-in-law through some really tough times.

    That said...I think we're transitioning to a time in America when the down and out are no longer the urban poor, but the suburban poor. I agree that it might be a strategic move for organization that serve the homeless to consider running shelters outside of the urban core. I don't think that's trying to hide the reality of homelessness, it's simply a shift in strategy that reflects a larger demographic shift in our cities.
  • Looks like the perfect location for a Pier One to me.
  • Look at all the empty buildings downtown. The Illinois building, there are two just down the street from Wheeler. And the one north of the one getting a new skin. And we have a sea of parking lots. Just what makes you think that someone is foaming at the mouth to get this site? There are basally TWO groups that wheeler help, Homeless and the very poor. The Homeless that DON'T HAVE A HOME. So they spend the night at the mission on Delaware. And the very poor that need help with food and services. You don't have a lot of homeless out on the east side. And you don't have a lot of poor people showing up downtown looking for a bag of food to feed the kids. WHEELER wants to get back to HELPING THE HOMELESS. The primary mission. NOW I know you SNOBS don't like to hang downtown with the homeless. But it’s a fact of life that 90% +- stay in the downtown area. Busing them to the east side will not help the homeless, and if jobs are the problem why not put them someplace around Keystone or Castleton. They can work in the malls and fast food shops up there. There are more jobs up there then the eastside. RIGHT? They can use the Circuit City store in Clay Terrace for a Homeless shelter. And they can work for the Simons cleaning up YOUR food trays. Simons pay a living wage? Or the can turn the old Preston’s Rocks store into a homeless shelter. MAYBE they can turn one of the big empty office towers up there in to a BIG HOMELESS shelter. And keep all the homeless for the whole city up there where the Job’s are, like cleaning your house…

    Moving something to where you can’t see it don’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    I think it’s about time for Lilly to get off some money and give it to somebody that REALLY needs it. RILEY HOSPITAL AND IU as there fill of cash. With BILLIONS on hand I’m sure they can pull out a couple million from there coin purse for the truly needed.
  • Is their recent publicity (Star article) just a vehicle to pander for more donations? If so, then I would like to see some accountability on the Wheeler's part. They have never publicly shown their books, and they have the right not too if they desire. As a result of this, they pass on grants that they are eligible for fear of showing their books. My point being is how much is their admin. overhead? Is it 5%, 10%, 20% 50%? All are possibilities, but no one knows. Asking for money if their admin. overhead is over 20% is inconceivable to me. Seems they were flush with money several years ago, when they bought the adjoining building on Delaware, the building on Michigan and just recently the Lighthouse Mission on Market Street, whose property should be worth a sizeable chunk. As with all donations, one should look into where the money goes, and how it is used.
  • bob no one wants to get rid of the homeless but many feel that they could be helping MORE people in other parts of the city. Think before you state that anyone who doesn't want the mission to stay is a snob and is simply wanting the poor out.
  • Helen, and I quote Crystal above: Needless to say [moving Wheeler to the east side] would help with the panhandling,, begging and general nusiance that some of the homeless are known for downtown.
  • Wheeler staying put in their downtown location just shows their stubborness. If they truly cared about helping the poor and homeless, they would more to another location.
  • thundermutt: of course you can live downtown; just do what the homeless do. Find a warm building to sleep next to, one preferably that has a hot air grate in an adjoining alley so you can set-up your base there. You have a college degree so this should not be difficult. Try it for a month. I truly enjoy this blog site because it has so many knowledgeable people commenting about the real estate market in town. I find the humanity, or lack thereof, expressed in this one a little frightening.
  • If Wheeler were to relocate, which neighborhood would accept them and the people they serve? My guess is that most neighborhoods support the activities of Wheeler, but would not want the homeless and the other clients of Wheeler in their neighborhoods. It's a catch-22.
  • I live east of downtown in Center Township. I DO want Wheeler in my backyard along with supporting social services. It's needed and it's a rational choice.
  • they dont seem to understand they are a disgusting drain on that part of the city!!
  • No, moving homeless services away from a popular downtown area doesn't make the homeless not exist. It just makes people with homes and jobs comfortable walking by. If it's so honorable to have our homeless people right in the heart of downtown, how about building a new homeless shelter on Pan Am Plaza? That way anybody coming to visit downtown can see how benevolent and righteous we are.

    Seriously, they've got every right to remain there, if they choose to, but I found the comments about them not opening there books very interesting.
  • Wheeler is greedy, greedy, greedy. It is obvious that they truly don't care about helping the needy by their absurd insistence in staying at their current location.
  • No Natalie this is what I said:

    Crystal Says:
    February 19th, 2008 at 3:40 pm
    How much is there downtown property worth?
    It seems to me that if they really wanted to help everybody they would have small facilities located on each side of town to help with job search, medical needs and housing. Look at the areas near Lafayette Square, Washington Street (east or west), East 38th Street.
    There is poverty in those areas and a lot of empty buildings. They could still keep smaller ops downtown. Needless to say that would help with the panhandling,, begging and general nusiance that some of the homeless are known for downtown.
  • A couple corrections for CrossedWires: Wheeler passes on grants due to its religious requirements. That is, to be eligible an organizations must not require, for example, religious classes for people receiving its services. Wheeler does have this requirement, so they are not eligible. Also, a quick visit to their website would have shown you that their admin costs are 8%. As for accountability, there is a link there to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, of which Wheeler is a member - you can check there for ECFA's requirements for membership.
  • Actually, I think all the above comments and opinions are +- correct!...the real issue is Wheeler does do a good job, they just chose the wrong location when they moved to Delaware Street. First, Delaware and New York Streets are primary thoroughfares with large loads of traffic and high visibility: second, the Mission has no outdoor staging areas for their daily visitors in waiting; third, it gets cold and wet standing along the open sidewalk all day for those in wait....just not a good location for this type of service! Wheeler's old site on E. Market was fine for access and visibility for those in need, and it was just enough out of the way to not treally bother the local workers and residents. Now they are all out in the open, especially those newer 'post Katrina' customers that have lawn chairs, coolers, new tennis shoes and loud boom boxes that sit out there all day and wait for dinner and beds. E. Michigan is too far away, but beleive me, they will find the place where ever it is, so a few blocks out of the downtown core will not harm the deal! They do need a better location!

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