Billie Spielman Center to leave the Westside

       The Billie Spielman Center, which has helped the Westside's needy since the 1960s, will close its office at the Westside Community Center Aug. 5.

Two joined cottages make up the east building at the Westside Community Center. As the signs indicate, the door on the left leads to the Nurse Center, while the door on the right - at least until Aug. 5 - leads to the Billie Spielman Center.
Westside Pioneer photo

       An outreach facility for the Pikes Peak Community Action Agency (PPCAA), Spielman will become part of a consolidated agency downtown at 312 S. Weber St., which will also take in another PPCAA outreach - the Norvell Simpson Center (formerly on South Institute Street) - as well as the PPCAA itself.
       The date for the new office to open is Aug. 12, a Spielman volunteer said this week.
       The future role of Spielman has not been fully defined. Its mission was to help low-income people west of I-25, but it will now be east of it. And, its assistance had included giving out food and clothing and writing vouchers so people could get food from the more fully stocked Westside CARES pantry. Those services will be coming to an end, according to PPCAA Chief Executive Officer John Tighe.
       Continuing, however, will be Spielman's family stabilization efforts, he said. These involve efforts by staff and volunteers to work with financially burdened households in gaining (or regaining) self-sufficiency.
       Spielman's move from the Community Center was at the request of its executive director, Dick Siever, following a decision by the nonprofit group that runs it. The group wants to use the space for programs that synchronize with community-oriented functions already operating at Westside, such as the nurse's center, educational efforts, several classes and senior and youth activities. The Spielman lease ran out in January, but has been continued on a temporary basis since then while Siever communicated with Tighe about his attempts to find other options for Spielman.
       “We were running out of space,” Siever explained in an interview with the Westside Pioneer. “It's a nice problem to have, but we didn't have room for our programs.”
       The facility has three buildings. The east end has the two joined cottages, one housing the nurse's center (free and open to the public Tuesdays to Thursdays) and the other - at least until Aug. 5 - dedicating 1,670 square feet for Billie Spielman.
       The building at the west end (which includes the gym) is currently full two nights a week, Siever said.
       Space does exist in the middle building, but “it's a nightmare” for access - three stories high with no elevator, he pointed out.
       The east building has handicapped access, which also makes it appealing.
       Still, the decision wasn't easy. Spielman “is a great agency that been around forever,” Siever said. “I'm hoping they will land well.”
       He was asked if there had ever been conflicts between Spielman clients and other Community Center users, “None whatsoever,” he said.
       Plans are being worked out now for the space Spielman will be leaving. Intergenerational art classes are set to start in September, and discussions are ongoing about the possibilities of a senior exercise program, an arrangement with Pikes Peak Community College, presentations by the PILLAR group and a Nurse Center enhancement so people who are sick or hurt can get help there, he said.
       Tighe said he sought another location for Spielman on the Westside. “But we weren't able to find anything,” he said.
       Losing Spielman will make providing assistance to the poor “a little harder,” said Steve Brown, executive director of Westside CARES, a church-funded entity that provides a range of emergency assistance to qualifying households in addition to its pantry. “We will just have to do our level best to absorb it.”
       The Spielman office was open weekday afternoons when CARES was not, which allowed people in need to go to Spielman if they were hoping to qualify for CARES pantry vouchers or to get emergency supplementation from Spielman's limited stores.
       Post-Spielman, “we'll have to centralize that [pantry vouchers] in our office,” Brown said. CARES' limit for each household is six vouchers a year - and the maximums had been three from Spielman and three from CARES. “Now our limit will be six,” he said.
       The origin details of the Spielman Center are not known to this newspaper, other than that it was started by a Westside woman named Billie Spielman. Funded by governmental and private sources, the facility has long been tied to the PPCAA, which formed in 1964 as part of the federal War on Poverty.
       For many years, Spielman was run from a small building in Vermijo Park where the restrooms are now. From 1993 to 2009, it was part of the Westside Intergenerational Center's community space within West Middle School, and in 2009 it relocated to the current cottage.

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