The St. Boniface Church located in San Francisco has been opening their doors for homeless people needing food and shelter for nearly fifteen years. Father Louis Vitale, along with the help of community activist Shelly Roder started this joined effort together in 2004, which is now known as the Gubbio Project.
Everyday, the church’s staff accepts over 100 people passing by, giving them each blankets and allowing them to sleep on the pews. “No questions are asked when our guests walk into the churches; in an effort to remove all barriers to entry, there are no sign-in sheets or intake forms. No one is ever turned away; all are welcomed, respected and treated with dignity,” this information can be seen in the Gubbio Project website ()
Even though the church is still open for local churchgoers who want to visit during the day and attend the regular masses, 2/3 of the church is solely reserved for the homeless people and the pews that they sleep on.
“This sends a powerful message to our unhoused neighbors – they are in essence part of the community, not to be kicked out when those with homes come in to worship. It also sends a message to those attending mass – the community includes the tired, the poor, those with mental health issues and those who are wet, cold and dirty,” a Gubbio Project representative said.
Homeless shelters have a bad reputation in the U.S. with people often complaining that it oftentimes feels like a prison that can become very dangerous. Unlike the Gubbio Project, where 95% of a survey conducted showed that people feel in the church every time they pass through for a night, or two.
In San Francisco alone, recent articles reported that the city spent $8,700 constructing boulders under various overpasses so as to prevent the homeless people from setting up housing there. There have also been reports about robots roaming around the city to scare away the homeless from camping in public areas and reporting them to the police.
Aside from the government forcing the homeless out of their encampments, more than a dozen activists, including a 14-year-old, have also been arrested in 2018 for feeding the homeless in Wells Park, El Cajon, California. Authorities claim the reason behind these arrests is to prevent the spread of disease, but activists are claiming they are criminalizing the homeless with these actions.
“It means they are criminalizing homelessness. They’ve created 4 laws against the homeless. No camping, no sleeping in cars, no panhandling and no feeding the homeless,” Mark Lane
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Credits: True Activist