A Cathedral in San Francisco that had installed a “watering system” that discouraged homeless people by drenching them as they slept, has been forced to apologise following a backlash.
Sprinklers installed at St. Mary’s Cathedral would drench the homeless people who sleep in its doorways throughout the night. After facing backlash for its ‘inhumane’ treatment, the city’s archdiocese has apologized for the system.
RT reports: St. Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, installed the sprinkler system about two years ago, after learning “from city resources” that similar systems are “commonly used” in the Financial District, the archdiocese said in a statement.
“This sprinkler system in alcoves near our back doorways was installed… 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 church said.
“The problem was particularly dangerous because students and elderly people regularly pass these locations on their way to school and mass every day.”
The sprinklers are located in a hole in the ceiling about 30 feet above the steps. The water rains down simultaneously from all four doorways for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes, beginning before sunset and recurring throughout the night, KCBS reported.
The church said that they informed those homeless people who regularly sleep in the cathedral’s doorways about the sprinklers, hoping to relocate them to other areas of the building that are “protected and safer.”
The archdiocese noted that it is “the largest supporter of services for the homeless in San Francisco,” and that St. Mary’s Cathedral “does more than any other Catholic church.”
But the homeless people who frequent the building say it isn’t as welcoming to them as the archdiocese says.
“They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing’,” a homeless man named Robert told KCBS.
There are no signs that warn the homeless about the sprinklers, and the water is prone to drenching them and their belongings.
“We’re going to be wet there all night, so hypothermia, cold, all that other stuff could set in. Keeping the church clean, but it could make people sick,” Robert said.
But the water doesn’t really clean the area, according to KCBS. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing and cardboard. There is no drainage system. Water pools accumulate on the steps and sidewalks.
“Hosing us down like that was totally wrong, telling us we were not blessed, that we were the devil’s child,” Steve Johnson, 54, who bunked down in nearby Jefferson Square after being chased out by the sprinklers, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This is not caring from the church.”