San Francisco Cathedral Reportedly Drenching Homeless People with Water to Drive Them Away

According to a KCBS news report, the Francis Effect has not fully arrived in the City by the Bay:

“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….

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….

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 cathedral staff member confirmed to KCBS the system was installed, perhaps a year ago, to deter the homeless from sleeping there.”

Given the Church’s commitment to the poor and vulnerable (and the extraordinary work countless Catholics do to help the homeless), the news is stunning and really quite horrifying. Pope Francis has, of course, made headlines by expanding assistance to the homeless in Vatican City. But this extends beyond his efforts; it runs to counter to what the Church stands for at a fundamental level. Let us hope that the outrage generated by this leads to immediate change and a wake-up call in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.