San Francisco cathedral promises to remove sprinklers used to deter homeless people

The sprinklers caused an outcry after homeless people said they were being soaked

Kashmira Gander
Thursday 19 March 2015 17:01

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has apologised and promised to remove a potentially illegal sprinkler system outside a cathedral, which was installed to deter rough sleepers.

The water system was set up in the alcoves near the back doorways of St Mary’s Cathedral in the California city around two years ago.

But the church came under fire recently when homeless people interviewed by KCBS radio complained that they were being drenched in water as they tried to find shelter for the night.

The station reported that the shower ran for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes, in four doorways.

Twitter users complained that the sprinklers were "shameful" and un-Christian.

The Roman Catholic organisation admitted in a statement that the system outside St Mary’s Cathedral was “ill-conceived” and may have violated San Francisco water use-laws.

It added that the sprinklers were used “as a safety, security and cleanliness measure” as the church claimed that “needles, faeces and other dangerous items were regularly being left in these hidden doorways”, and were inspired by similar measured used in the city’s financial district.

“The idea was not to remove those persons, but to encourage them to relocate to other areas of the Cathedral, which are protected and safer. The purpose was to make the Cathedral grounds as well as the homeless people who happen to be on those grounds safer.

“We are sorry that our intentions have been misunderstood and recognise that the method used was ill-conceived. It actually has had the opposite effect from what it was intended to do, and for this we are very sorry," the statement read.

However, it defended the cathedral’s record on helping homeless people, and said it “does more than any other Catholic church”.

“The Cathedral itself serves hundreds of homeless people giving them food and shelter, as an integral part of the San Francisco Interfaith Council's efforts in that regard, for example, opening its doors for shelter and food for five weeks over the holidays.”

The statement added that the sprinklers will be removed by the end of the day.

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