Clinic for poor moves into Near Westside house; coordinators say they were unaware of permit need

       A medical clinic for the homeless and other poor people, formerly located at the Marian House soup kitchen, opened this month in the 400 block of West Kiowa Street, a chiefly residential block on the Near Westside. However, the facility has no permit, and the operation is to be reviewed by a land-use inspector, city planner James Mayerl said this week.
       In response, clinic spokespeople said they did not realize a permit was required, believing that the commercial zoning in that block, the presence of a nearby clinic (the Emergicare at Spruce and Bijou streets) and the proximity to a one-time homeless center in the 400 block of Bijou Street (the former “Bijou House”) made the location acceptable.
       “We were not trying to not do it,” said Maryann Stadjuhar, director of emergency and transition services for Catholic Charities, which helps sponsor (with Centura Health) the West Kiowa clinic as well as one in the former St. Francis Hospital on East Pikes Peak Avenue. “We will do whatever we have to do.”
       The clinic operator is Ser-vice Empower-ment Transformation (SET), a non-profit organization which was founded in 1990. A rotating pool of area doctors and nurses volunteer acute medical care at the West Kiowa clinic from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. Their services are free to the indigent; others are asked to pay $10.
       The clinic needed a one-year temporary location during the $4 million reconstruction of the Marian House (located on the east side of the Bijou Street bridge), and the property owner at 424 W. Kiowa, a Marian House supporter, offered the rear unit rent-free, explained Zelma Joseph, the president and CEO of SET in Colorado Springs.
       Because of the traditional Marian House connection, Catholic Charities runs a shuttle van four times daily to and from the clinic during its operating hours for those who need it.
       There was no attempt to keep the clinic secret. Joseph said that a neighborhood open house was held, though lightly attended. However, she has gotten the impression that residents are not happy the clinic is there. A lady in the neighborhood has told her the clinic hurts property values, the Westside Pioneer was anonymously contacted, and the first sign, saying “SET Homeless Medical Clinic,” was torn down. Joseph has since reworded it, leaving out the word “homeless.”
       “I'm sorry that the neighborhood is upset, but I think people are focusing more on the population of homeless people that hang out on the street corner,” she said. “But that's a small part of the people we see.”
       According to Stadjuhar, just 35 percent of the people served by the clinic are homeless people. The majority are “working poor, with limited incomes,” she said.
       Joseph added, “We do our best to try to monitor what goes on around the clinic. So far nobody has been hanging out. They get their services and then they leave.”
       In addition to the small sign over the door of the rear building (visible from the alley between Kiowa and Bijou), the clinic puts a sandwich-type sign on the parkway in front of 424 W. Kiowa, stating that a clinic is in the rear.
       So far, however, business has been slow at the new location. An average of only three people a day are being seen. “People are having a hard time finding us,” Joseph said.
       Mayerl said that any business moving into a house, even in a commercial zone, would need to apply to the city. A development plan, including a parking explanation, would be expected. Typically also, the city would send out postcards to the neighborhood, giving them a chance to look at the plan and to offer comments.
       Jim Fenimore, a board member of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), the city-recognized Westside advocacy group, lives in and represents the Near Westside district of OWN. Contacted by the Pioneer, he said he had not heard of the clinic and would look into it.

Westside Pioneer article