04:20 GMT14 April 2021
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    To keep the homeless from sleeping on the cathedral’s door steps, the Archdiocese of San Francisco installed a watering system that dumps water onto the ground where people lay at night.

    The water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it. The shower runs in the church’s doorways for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes, soaking homeless people and their belongings, reported CBS affiliate KPIX TV.

    Saint Marys Cathedral, San Francisco, California
    © Flickr / Ken Lund
    Saint Marys Cathedral, San Francisco, California

    After facing substantial backlash, the church announced they are removing the system.

    The archdiocese defended its decision of installing the system two years ago, saying "after learning from city resources" that similar deterrents were "commonly used in the Financial District, as a safety, security and cleanliness measure to avoid the situation where needles, feces and other dangerous items were regularly being left in these hidden doorways."

    However, KPIX reported that "the water doesn’t really clean the area. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing, and cardboard. There’s no drainage system. The water pools on the steps of the sidewalk."

    The statement also says that it had warned the people who take shelter in those areas about the sprinklers.

    They actually have signs in there that say, "No Trespassing," a homeless man named Robert told KPIX TV. However, there are no signs warning the homeless about the water pouring from the ceiling all night.

    Advocates for the homeless found the system to be "inhumane" and uncatholic.

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

    Some of the homeless bring waterproof gear, even an umbrella, to try to stay dry, according to KPIX TV.

    After an inspector from the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection visited the place following a complaint, the department issued a notice of violation for "the unpermitted downspout," according to the Washington Post.

    The archdiocese has filed a permit to remove the system, department spokesperson Lily Madjus said. They have 15 days to do so.

    "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," the statement read.

    This comes at a time when California is facing a severe drought, with residents and lawmakers looking for ways to conserve water in a drought that is now in its fourth year.


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    San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, Coalition on Homeless, Lily Madjus, Jennifer Friedenbach, San Francisco, California
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