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 is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.
“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 runs for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways, and soaks homeless people, and their belongings.
The water doesn’t 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 said, “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 the system was installed, perhaps a year ago, to deter the homeless from sleeping there.