SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Almost three months ago, KCBS revealed that Saint Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco was drenching the homeless at night to keep them from sleeping in the church alcoves. The Bishop in charge apologized, and the Archdiocese removed the illegally installed plumbing system, under orders from the City. Not far away, another Catholic church opens its doors to the homeless, to let them sleep there, year-round.
St. Boniface in the heart of the Tenderloin is a beautiful, century-old Catholic church filled with stunning stained glass. If you show up during the day in the middle of the week, you might find dozens of homeless sleeping in the pews.
Laura Slattery is the Executive Director of the Gubbio Project, which runs the program. She says the 76 pews they open provide a safe place for people who have been wandering the streets all night.
“People feel safe here,” said Slattery. “We open up some of the converted confessionals in the back and we give out toiletries and some socks.”
About 120 people a day stop in at some point between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday for some rest, and that number rises every year.
“When it opens up you are anxious to get in there…and get your battery recharged,” said James, who takes advantage of the program. “I just get a couple of hours and then I’m back at what I need to do.”
The pews are often so crowded that people end up sleeping on the floor.
That means you may catch more than one person snoring during morning or noon service.
“Many times they start crying,” said Slttery, who says people are left thinking “’this is the Church I was taught in grade school.’”