I’ve covered the plight of the homeless in America in recent years as another manifestation of the erosion of decency, empathy, morality and kindness throughout much of our culture. As a society, we’ve become increasingly obsessed with youth, materialism, power and short-termism, tossing aside wisdom, real joy, soulfulness and connectivity. One of the symptoms of this unfortunate transformation can been seen in how we treat the least fortunate and most vulnerable around us, particularly the homeless (see: In 33 U.S. Cities, Feeding the Homeless Has Been Criminalized).
Of all the institutions you’d hope to take a different stance toward the weak and struggling, places of worship would be at the top of the list. Not so for Saint Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, which admittedly sprays sleeping homeless people with water in order to keep them away.
SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — KCBS has learned that Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways.
The cathedral, at Geary and Gough, is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.
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.
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.
Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless said, “It’s very shocking, and very inhumane. There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.”
A cathedral staff member confirmed to KCBS the system was installed, perhaps a year ago, to deter the homeless from sleeping there.
KCBS has also learned from a review of city permit records that the system was installed illegally, and may violate water use regulations.
Drought or no drought, when if comes to spraying the homeless, there seems to be plenty of water available.
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