Spielman could be alone at West Center
If a Question 2C loss forces the closure of the West Center next year (see story at left), there will still be one entity operating at the former Buena Vista school site.
The Billie Spielman Center, which provides assistance to the needy, will continue to rent space in two joined cottages at 1616 W. Bijou St., in the east end of the building complex in the 1600 block, according to Ron Cousar, City Parks' Recreation Services Division manager. A new contract with the Pikes Peak Community Action Agency (PPCAA) is being worked on that will include a continuation of that lease agreement, he said in an interview this week.
But Billie Spielman will probably be alone on the center property. The only possible exception, according to City Parks Director Paul Butcher, is the Living History Association (LHA), which is the volunteer arm of the city-owned Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. However, with the ranch itself also slated to close should 2C lose, and nothing certain until City Council makes final budget decisions over the next few weeks, Butcher could not predict what will result. “We'd like to keep the LHA there, if they stay in existence,” he said. Even though the group has just the one room in the westernmost building, “we might be able to isolate the heat and evaporative coolers.”
Earlier in the week, Young had not been happy at the rumor going around that Billie Spielman would have to relocate again if the West Center closed. Serving a geographical area west of I-25 up to the Teller County line, the entity has been affiliated with the West Center since 1993 when the two were side by side at West Middle School; the move from there last June occurred because of changes made by School District 11.
The cottage location has slightly more space (1,670 square feet compared with 1,555) than Spielman had at West Middle, Young said. The main thing he and his three-member staff miss from the old place is the air conditioning, although he said the summer heat wasn't so bad when they turned on some floor fans.
What Spielman does for the needy is defined as “family stabilization,” according to the PPCAA website. Services include financial aid (such as bus fare, medicine, gas money and utilities payment help), food assistance (working with the Westside CARES church-led effort), privately donated clothing and counseling. Most people are only seen once or twice a year, with the “chronically homeless” making up about 10 percent of the total, according to Young.
To qualify for aid, an applicant's income typically must be no higher than 125 percent of the poverty level, which for a family of four this year is $22,050. A new program, funded with federal stimulus money, allows the center to give vouchers to women with incomes up to 200 percent of the poverty level to help with their health care, Young said.
Spielman has seen a mostly steady increase in its caseload over time. A spike in October 2008 set the record of 949 different services (to 578 individuals or households) in a month. The numbers have dropped off somewhat since then, Young said. In August (the most recent in which statistics have been compiled), there were 719 services from 446 individuals/ households.
Requests for food tend to go up during the winter, slacking off somewhat when people start getting back their tax returns after April, Young summarized.
Funding for Billie Spielman comes from private and public sources. Intended to help people attain self-sufficiency, community action agencies originated in 1964 as part of the federal War on Poverty.
Westside Pioneer article