Anyone who has read the Bible knows that that Jesus feller is quite fond of helping the poor. Unfortunately, either one San Fransisco Catholic church mistook homeless people for plants that need regular watering, or they didn’t get the memo. Jesus made himself very clear in the Sermon on the Mount that the both the poor and those who show them mercy are “blessed,” but Saint Mary’s Cathedral in San Fransisco, California, has decided that those dirty poors don’t really need help, anyway.
The area’s homeless, until recently, were able to take shelter from harsh weather in sheltered alcoves that mark the cathedral’s four side doors. Not only did St. Mary’s put up multiple “No Trespassing” signs, but they also installed a watering system with a single purpose: to prevent the homeless from seeking shelter there.
A San Fransisco CBS station reports:
“They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing,’” said a homeless man named Robert.
But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.
The shower ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes while we were there, starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways. KCBS witnessed it soak homeless people, and their belongings.
One could argue that the watering system might be intended to keep everything clean, but the news station points out that this is not the case. In fact, it serves mainly as a waste of water in the midst of a drought:
The water doesn’t really clean the area. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing and cardboard. There is no drainage system. The water pools on the steps and sidewalks.
A neighbor who witnessed the drenching told KCBS, “I was just shocked, one because it’s inhumane to treat people that way. The second thing is that we are in this terrible drought.
KCBS reports that in addition to being inhumane, the system was installed illegally and may violate water use regulations.
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“It’s very shocking, and very inhumane. There’s not really another way to describe it,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless. “Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.”
The cathedral confirmed that the watering system was, indeed, installed to keep the homeless from sleeping there but argued that, while the church refuses to allow the homeless to sleep in the doorways of a building that is only used a few times a week (a completely cost-free effort), they really do try to help them.
“We refer them, mostly to Catholic Charities, for example for housing,” spokesman Chris Lyford said. “To Saint Anthony’s soup kitchen for food, if they want food on that day. Saint Vincent de Paul if they need clothes.”
“We do the best we can, and supporting the dignity of each person,” said Lyford, who apparently considers dumping water on the homeless to be dignified. “But there is only so much you can do.”
Many of the homeless bring waterproof gear and umbrelas to protect themselves from the church’s misguided and cruel efforts to keep them from taking shelter, proving the system to be an ineffective deterrant. But the horrible treatment has done nothing but diminish the cathedral in the eyes of its neighbors.
The Archdioces of San Fransisco said in a statement that the system would be addressed quickly.
“Catholic organizations in San Francisco serve thousands of homeless people every year, providing shelter, food, and critical services,” the statement says, defending the church. “That is the true picture of compassionate Catholic care.”
Unfortunately, it’s what happened before they got caught that matters.
Watch a report on this horrible treatment of the homeless below:
Featured image via CBS San Fransisco