A San Francisco Catholic church is taking heat over a new water installation that is designed to discourage homeless people from camping out in front of its building.
Saint Mary’s Cathedral admitted to news radio station KCBS-AM that its new watering system was installed to ward off vagrants who sleep in the church’s doorway at night. The installation is designed to spray anyone within its path for more than a minute every half-hour. KCBS reporters said they witnessed several homeless individuals being sprayed by the water feature while doing research for their story.
While several people are criticizing the church’s handling of the homeless, others have been quick to point out that the shower system wastes water during California’s extreme drought.
“We do the best we can … but there’s only so much you can do,” spokesperson Chris Lyford said, adding that the church does regularly refer homeless individuals to Catholic charities and food banks for help. The shower installation may not be in place for very long: KCBS said the water feature was installed illegally and is not in compliance with municipal codes.
In the meantime, homeless individuals told KCBS they will continue sleeping in front of the church despite the risk of hypothermia and several other potential health problems created by the shower. Some say they’ve even started bringing umbrellas with them.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.