BY RODNEY MARGISON
Many people are familiar with the work Wheeler Mission Ministries does serving the homeless in Indianapolis, but few may realize that the organization has both a long-running and a new presence in Bloomington. Since 1953, Wheeler has operated a 285-acre residential facility on Fish Road called Camp Hunt that helps men overcome addiction. And, since merging with Backstreet Missions in 2015, Wheeler has operated the Center for Men and Center for Women & Children homeless shelters in town.
“Camp Hunt is a very successful program for a variety of reasons,” says Dwayne Gordon, Wheeler’s Bloomington area director. “It’s set apart, so when a guy comes here, he can’t run down to the corner market and pick up cigarettes and booze and things like that.” The program teaches foundational biblical principles combined with a strong work ethic and leadership and relationship skills to help participants get their lives in order.
It also allows for a family approach to recovery, which Gordon describes as unique. “A guy may come in and they’re separated, he just pawned his wife’s wedding ring for a bag of heroin. We’re able to have the families out on the weekends so they’re able to work through counseling together,” he explains. “We’ve actually seen divorce papers served in the first month and the renewing of marriage vows when they leave.”
The camp offers two programs: a six-month Addictions Recovery Program emphasizing relationships and taking ownership of addiction, and a nine-month Servant Leadership Program, which trains men to teach and counsel others.
A distinctive feature of the camp is its pallet factory, where approximately 75 percent of program participants work. Others serve on housekeeping, kitchen, and building and maintenance crews. Gordon says the annual budget for the Bloomington operation is a little more than $2 million, of which around $1 million is earned by the factory. The remainder depends on individual donations—each averaging about $35 per month—since Wheeler does not accept any government funding.
The camp has one intake facility in Indianapolis and, since merging with Backstreet Missions in October 2015, the Center for Men homeless shelter in Bloomington. There, Gordon says, Wheeler provides crisis shelter and food service and hosts the Saturday night Interfaith Winter Shelter. “Then we back them up with programs such as the one that’s at this camp,” he adds.
For more information and to donate, visit wheelermission.org.