“This is the heart of what the Y is all about, the foundation of why we are here,” says Eric Gorder, Branch Director of the Ferguson Family YMCA downtown. Gorder is speaking about the collaboration that has lasted over a year and was spurred by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 18, 2020 is the exact date that St. John’s Homeless Shelter began our pandemic response last year, opening a second shelter at Spring Lake Church downtown and operating both shelters 24/7. While the church had no showers, the YMCA down the block was quick to help meet this need. That’s why they were the community partner we could turn to when the need presented again. In late summer 2020, St. John’s staff got word that the second floor of the Bay Lake City Center downtown – right above Spring Lake Church – might be an option of a second shelter site for the 2020-21 shelter season, Nov. 1 – April 30. This site would accommodate social distancing while still not having to enact a capacity and turn people away in the winter months during a pandemic. While the space was large and had all we needed for the second shelter, what it lacked was shower facilities. That’s when staff reached out once again to the YMCA’s President/CEO Sean Elliott to ask for help. The answer was an enthusiastic yes.