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Wheeler Mission laying off 13, cites weak giving

February 18, 2008
A venerable downtown homeless shelter plans to shed programs and lay off staff to minimize a rising tide of red ink.

Wheeler Mission Ministries announced today that it will transfer a youth program and a separate family-service program to Shepherd Community Center at the end of the month. Shepherd, also a Christian ministry, focuses on youth and family from its base at 4017 E. Washington St.

Thirteen youth and family staff will be laid off, although several other staff will be redeployed within Wheeler as it returns to its roots of sheltering and treating homeless people.

"We had no choice but to make these cuts," said Wheeler Chief of Development Steve Kerr. "It made so much sense that these should transfer seamlessly to" Shepherd.

The two Wheeler programs had a total budget of $768,000 and 20 staff.

Wheeler, based at 245 N. Delaware St., is keeping the building at 3208 E. Michigan Street where the youth and family programs were housed.

Without the cuts, the ministry would have faced a $342,000 deficit in its $6.2 million budget for the fiscal year that will end in May, Kerr said. With the cuts, Wheeler leaders expect to end the fiscal year with a $162,000 deficit.

A line of credit will be tapped in the hope that fundraising regains steam in the fall, traditionally a strong period for contributions.

Donors appear to be nagged by uncertainty, Kerr said.

The concerns tend to dampen contributions in presidential election years, he said, and this year donors also are worried about the economy.
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