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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

S.F. Catholic Church Confesses to Dousing Water on Homeless People Sleeping on Church Steps

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 12:47 PM

Update 3:38 p.m.: The Archdiocese of San Francisco apologizes about the sprinkler system used to wash away homneless people. Read full statement at he bottom of this post.

Original story: Another San Francisco Catholic church is suffering from bad press after it was revealed that the cathedral installed an automated watering system that douses homeless people sleeping on the church's steps. 

KCBS reports that Saint Mary’s Cathedral's goal is very clear: to wash away the homeless problem as church officials see it. 

Homeless folks have been using the cathedral's steps as a place to crash at night, and this hasn't gone over well with the Catholic church, which has attempted to deter homeless people with "No trespassing" signs. But when that didn't work, the cathedral decided to get aggressive and installed a system that shoots water from a hole 30 feet above where the people are sleeping, according to the news station. 

What's more, there are no signs warning homeless people about the (unholy) water that will drench them in the middle of the night. 

KCBS got footage of the scene: 

Per the news station:

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.

Chris Lyford, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, admitted the watering system was installed about a year ago with the hope of deterring the homeless. He added that cathedral staff has made much effort to provide the impoverished people with help. 

“We refer them, mostly to Catholic Charities, for example for housing,” Lyford tells KCBS. “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. But there is only so much you can do.”

Some of the homeless bring waterproof gear, even an umbrella, to try to stay dry. Frustrated cathedral employees tell us they don’t have the staff to police the doorways, which are used by churchgoers during services.

Aside from the fact that it's kinda mean, this watering system is a total waste during a drought. Also, it might be illegal, with inadequate permitting, according to KCBS. 

Update: The Archdiocese responds to the sprinkler fiasco:

This sprinkler system in alcoves near our back doorways was installed approximately two years ago, after learning from city resources that this kind of system was being commonly used in the Financial District, as a safety, security and cleanliness measure to avoid the situation where needles, feces and other dangerous items were regularly being left in these hidden doorways. The problem was particularly dangerous because students and elderly people regularly pass these locations on their way to school and mass every day. When the system was installed, after other ideas were tried and failed, the people who were regularly sleeping in those doorways were informed in advance that the sprinklers were being installed. The idea was not to remove those persons, but to encourage them to relocate to other areas of the Cathedral, which are protected and safer. The purpose was to make the Cathedral grounds as well as the homeless people who happen to be on those grounds safer.

We are sorry that our intentions have been misunderstood and recognize that the method used was ill-conceived. It actually has had the opposite effect from what it was intended to do, and for this we are very sorry.

We have also now learned that the system in the first place required a permit and may violate San Francisco water-use laws, and the work to remove this system has already started, and will be completed by the end of the day.

[via KCBS]
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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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