New LGBTQ+ community resource center now serving Colorado Springs

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Rainbow-colored shopping bags in the clothing try-on room at Prism Community Collective.

The Prism Community Collective opened its doors in Colorado Springs this week, a direct response to the deadly mass shooting at Club Q in November 2022. A survivor and LGBTQ+-led initiative, Prism will offer access to mental and physical health care providers, community support, and connection as well as advocate for a more equitable and inclusive community.

Stoney Roberts is the site director of Prism. They said conversations began following the violence at Club Q, with a focus on creating something different than a traditional community resiliency center often seen following mass casualty events. 

"When Club Q happened, it was like, what do we do to find out exactly what is going on and what should the community response be?" Roberts said. "How do we do this in a way that's informed by the community as far as what they want and need and not something that's stood up as a prescription telling them what they want and need."

Through community conversations, Roberts and others with Prism said it was clear the community needed a long-term option to serve those impacted by the shooting as well as other LGBTQ+ people in Colorado Springs.

"Some of the smallest things are the largest things to a lot of people," Roberts said. "So it's really just meeting people where they're at, finding out what they need, and doing your best to meet them there."

The center includes a gender-affirming closet with donated clothing, a health room for some medical services, a gaming room and a lavender library with books and board games. There are five rooms in the space, each named for one of the people killed at Club Q.

Staff will also help people connect with gender-affirming health care providers. The Prism Provider Directory offers more than 50 mental health care providers searchable by identity, specialty, experience, and insurance. Physical health providers will be added in the coming months. 

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Prism Community Collective’s Lavender Room, which will function as a library and board game room.

"I think what we're trying to do here is really listen to those underlying things that people are saying when they're like, yeah, I do need to find an affirming doctor. But sometimes it is just so hard to start," Roberts said.

A portion of the funding used to stand up the center – $5 million – comes from a federal Anti-Terrorism Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP) grant. Such grants are allocated specifically to help organizations create hubs for mental and behavioral health, peer support, and other services in the wake of a mass shooting. 

Prism organizers said none of the funds for the effort came from resources that could go directly to survivors of the Club Q shooting. Other partners include NAMI, Peak Vista, and Diversus Health Services.

Many survivors of the Club Q shooting have been critical of the resources available to them immediately after the attack. 

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Prism Community Collective’s John Arcediano in the soon-to-open LGBTQ drop-n center’s Lavender Room, which will function as a library and board game room.

"The system failed us," said John Arcediano, a Club Q survivor now serving as Prism's program and outreach manager. "When you go through something like that, you can barely function. Expecting survivors to find and navigate resources when they're in that state is unreasonable and irresponsible."

The grant breaks down to about $1.7 million per year for three years. Organizers hope to have other funds to sustain the resource center when the grant money runs out at the end of 2025. Colorado Victims of Crime Act & Colorado Community Health Alliance have also invested in the effort.

Community Health Partnership (CHP) has been the lead agency in the more than year-long process to develop the space. Research conducted by CHP before the shooting at Club Q found disparities in access to both mental and physical healthcare and resources in Colorado Springs. In a press release, CHP said the shooting not only created an urgent need for survivors and victims’ families, "it compounded existing gaps and barriers faced by the local LGBTQ+ community." 

"We had a bias-motivated crime creating a ripple effect on the LGBTQ+ community, we were already dealing with discrimination and fear. Even if they weren't there the night of the shooting, they felt the impact of this too, " said Rachel Keener, CHP's senior manager of health equity. 

Prism will join Inside Out Youth Services as the only LGBTQ+-focused organization in Colorado’s second-largest city. The Colorado Springs Pride Center closed in 2015.

The site will offer drop-in hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays and from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. Staff will be on site from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Those interested in visiting Prism or accessing its resources can call 719-602-2540 or email [email protected]. All guests will be required to sign in and register online. There will be security on the premises as well.

"We knew that that undertaking is pretty large, and there's no way to really say this is a safe space, but we can make it a brave space where we do everything in anything we can to make it feel as safe as it can be," Roberts said.