San Francisco Cathedral Denies Drenching Homeless People with Sprinklers was Intentional

Amanda Casanova | Contributor | Thursday, March 19, 2015

San Francisco Cathedral Denies Drenching Homeless People with Sprinklers was Intentional

A church in San Francisco says it will uninstall its sprinkler system after news broke that St. Mary’s Cathedral had installed the system to keep homeless from sleeping on the property.

A building inspector filed a code violation notice about the system, which poured water out of a hole above an outdoor alcove. The church promised to have the system removed this week.

The controversy started when a local San Francisco news station ran a story that claimed the sprinkler system was meant to keep away the homeless. Water reportedly would pour out from the ceiling at various times, running for about 75 seconds.

“It’s very shocking, and very inhumane,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless. “There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.”

In a statement released this week, the church said the sprinkler system was installed about two years ago to clean the area around the doorways.

“When the system was installed, after other ideas were tried and failed, the people who were regularly sleeping in those doorways were informed in advance that the sprinklers were being installed,” the statement said

“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.”

The church has since apologized. 

“We are sorry that our intentions have been misunderstood and recognize 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.”

Publication date: March 19, 2015