This California Church Soaks Homeless People with Water

This story would be jaw-dropping at any time, but the fact that California is in the middle of an unprecedented drought is the cherry on top of an appalling sundae.

A CBS affiliate in San Francisco, KCBS, has footage of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, using an automated watering system to drench anyone who tries to sleep on the church’s steps or doorways.

From the report:

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.

“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 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. “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.

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.” (All emphases added)

Forget WWJD, this is WWJS: Who Would Jesus Soak? What we can’t figure out is why a church that is obviously incredibly well-funded would resort to such a demeaning, reckless, environmentally unsound way to address this issue.

The church released a statement Wednesday morning, which said they would address the situation at the Cathedral immediately and have further comment later in the day.

Whether the quick response was due to the media attention or to the fact that the report also revealed that the water system isn’t even legal, is unclear.

Read the full story at KCBS’ website here.

Written by Caitlyn McClure

Caitlyn is a rabble-rouser and writer based in Olympia, WA. She is a copywriter and logistics specialist for Tiny Pixel Collective, a web shop providing activists and artists with the tools they need to tell stories that inspire change.