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May 22, 2005

Comments

Nathan Ael

Great article.

Nancy

God bless them, every one.

Benedetto

Another perspective: my sister-in-law works at a government office in San Francisco. She would like to go to Mass, or stop by for a time of Eucharistic Adoration during lunch. However, converting a church (not a building on a church compound, but the actual church, the pews in front of the altar and tabernacle) into a daytime homeless shelter for needy and/or psychotic and/or substance abusing folk is rather off-putting to many people that work in the offices around St. Boniface.

I'm all for caring for the poor, but don't forget about caring for the faithful. They seem to have lost out here. Why not let the homeless sleep in the Rectory during the day?

Nancy

Benedetto,

With all due respect, Mass continues at St. Boniface. And the Sacrament is still there. There is nothing to stop anyone, including your sister-in-law, from attending daily Mass or adoring Jesus in the Eucharist. The whole building is not filled - front pews are left for the faithful.

Those of us who have a problem with praying in the presence of our suffering brothers and sisters have a problem indeed, but not one which can be solved by excluding the helpless.

Nancy

Benedetto,

Try your sister out on, "I was naked and you clothed me."

I SO am sorry that the helplessness, the hunger, the nakedness, of Christ is, as you say, "off-putting" to your sister. I will pray for her and for all similarly afflicted.

Chris Sullivan

Thank you Amy. Beautiful.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Luke 4:18

God Bless

Meaghan

Nancy,

I think I can understand where both sides are basing their understanding. But there is one thing that does bothers me in these types of discussions.

You used the term 'helpless'. Why is that the classification needed? Why do we think primarily in those terms or the terms of victimization? I speak from the experience of having had someone in my family very close to coming to the position these people are in, but that in no way means that we are the only ones 'responsible' for them and the answers lie primarily with us.

There are charitable works of mercy, but one of them, imho, is not allowing the sense of 'helplessness' or 'victimization' be the definition that homeless people live by.

Nancy

WOW, Chris, that's what Jesus read in his own synagogue! I've always wondered why, but now I know!

Nancy

Meaghan,

I have a homeless person in my immediate family too.

I can't decide whether my own son is "helpless," let alone that I should make that judgment about a stranger.

I'm in a position of ignorance. I don't know why anyone is homeless. I don't know why anyone is addicted to drugs. I don't know why anyone is mentally ill.

Jesus didn't say, "I was UNJUSTLY imprisoned, and you visited Me." "I was UNFAIRLY hungry, and you gave Me food." He didn't call for us to make those judgments about fault. (How can we, in any case?) He called for us to help. To feed, to visit. Without regard to "fault." Or "helpfulness." Or its opposite.

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your post. Could you detail for me what you personally are doing to correct this idea of the "helpless" homeless, and to find shelter for the ("helpless"? "not-helpless"?) homeless?

Tim Ferguson

I'll get angry comments for this, I'm sure, but a parish I worked at was regularly used by the homeless as a "campsite" during the day as well - they would sleep in the back pews. There were many problems - some of the homeless were clearly disturbed, and there were incidents of theft, of urination (and more), of aggressive panhandling.
Regarding those who were not "problematic," someone used a phrase to describe the situation which has stuck with me in any of the discussions of the homeless: By permitting them to sleep the day away, are we telling them that they can do no better than to lead useless lives?
Now, I know St. Boniface has an excellent program of outreach and assistance that's truly admirable, and the friars and staff interact with the homeless who are there and attempt to give them both dignity and a leg up. I have great admiration for Fr. Louis and what they are doing at St. Boniface. They also do a good deal to try and "fix" the problem by working with the City and the shelters.
But I still question the value of permitting the homeless to sleep the day away. Is it truly respecting their value as human beings, children of God, to (as Meaghan put so well) allow the sense of helplessness or victimization be the definition by which homeless people live?

MaureenM

Tim, they sleep because they have been up all night with their demons.

Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago also has its share of people who populate the rear pews during the day. They are welcomed to warm up or cool off (depending on the season) and to rest. My daughter, about 9 years old at the time saw them, among a million other sights, on a trip "downtown". Asked what she would tell her dad that she learned that day, she said with some surprise, "Bums go to church, too."

We are all children of God and all are welcomed.

Nancy

That's a tough one, Tim.

May I ask you, since you seem enaged in this problem, what you personally are doing to work with these people?

I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but that has to be the question. It can't be, "Let's you and him fight." However comfortable that might be. If you find that your comfort zone, retreat from the debate.

Certainly the chronic homeless have very serious problems. Psychiatric, health, emotional, whatever. Those of you who object to having these people "in your face," those of you who would be more comfortable pretending it doesn't exist - what have you done lately to work on this??

We're all more than open to suggestions. In the meanwhile, allowing people a safe place to sleep seems innocent enough. Even if other far more privileged people have to stumble over the Christ to receive His Body.

Nancy

It would be more "respecting" to let them sleep in the streets?

Nancy

But I still question the value of permitting the homeless to sleep the day away. Is it truly respecting their value as human beings, children of God, to (as Meaghan put so well) allow the sense of helplessness or victimization be the definition by which homeless people live?

It would be more "respecting" to let them sleep in the streets?

Nancy

Sorry, Amy, I'm a technological moron.

Caroline

I live in San Francisco and have seen the homeless sleeping in a section of pews at St.Boniface. I suggest that all the downtown churches allow the same. Better yet, rip out the excess pews and put in more comfortable cots. Some policing will be necessary; retired men armed with cell phones (and some training) might function as an auxilliary to the Ladies Altar Society. Additional beds in the rectory is also a good idea.

Tim Ferguson

Nancy,

Right now I'm a student, so there's little that I can "do" personally other than pray, which I certainly do. There's also little that I can "do" to solve the problems of war, abortion, contraceptive culture, child abuse, pollution, liturgical abuse or cancer - I don't think that automatically exempts me from an ability to discuss the issue or to have an opinion.

Prior to my life as a student, I worked in a parish, as I had stated above. My personal work there with the homeless involved daily interaction with them, conversing with them, working with the staff to develop a comprehensive program for assisting - fairly, equitably, justly and with dignity - those who are in need (a program which has, since I left the parish, become more fully implemented, to my delight).
No, it's not more dignified to let them sleep in the streets. It's more dignified to tell them, "You have value, you have worth, you have a contribution you could be making to society. You don't need to spend your life like this. There are programs to help you. There are people to assist you. But not everything will be done for you - you have to make an effort, just like everyone else."
I know that part of the problem is the shelters - the homeless don't want to sleep in the shelters at night because they're dangerous. Wouldn't it seem that the solution is to police the shelters better to make them safe, rather than turn the church into a de facto shelter during the day? I know that not every homeless person is addicted to drugs and alcohol, but a good number of them are, and that fact can't be denied. Concommitant with that is the fact that many of the homeless need to sleep during the day not so much because they were unable to find a shelter at night, but because they were able to find cheap liquor and drugs at night.

Meaghan

Nancy,

One of the points I may have been trying to bring up is the very issue of the multiple reasons and potential answers for the homeless in our society. There is plenty of room for discussion of both.

The question is not what I or Tim or anyone else is 'personally' doing. That, in and of itself, will not define the problem or, by itself, find a good, human and permanent societally healthy answer.

By raising other questions, we in no way are saying that we want our comfort zone and object to having the homeless 'in our face'. We are not pretending it doesn't exist. Quite the opposite.

You say you are in a position of ignorance and don't know the why's of the situations. But there is one why we do know, although we all work out of various degress of ignorance. That is the human condition of sin for ALL of us. There are many sick people for numerous reasons on the street, but to make the consequences of sin and the responsibility to reject that sin only ours and not those we deem more helpless than us, could ultimately be a spiritual death blow, imo.

I believe there is still room at the table for all the questions and comments both within the church, social agencies, the gov't and individuals (including the homeless) to be asked and discussed in finding a more permanent solution. And in my mind, permanent is the word to work with. Nothing is perfect, there will always be the poor among us and the homeless, but just moving them from church to church, whether tent cities or pews is just a temporary answer.

If each of us could never speak of something unless we are or have been going through it, or working directly with it, our whole society would crumble and not function. I believe some of our concerns are valid concerns and trying to place all the responsibility on us for the solution, is not the solution imho.

Nancy

Tim, may not sleeping in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament do some good we cannot assess?

And...sure. It's better if no one was an addict. And your answer for this would be what? You will fix this how?

It would be better - and you might appeal to God for this, since He seems to be the One responsible - if no one was mentally ill. Your remedy would be what?

We don't have the answers for addiction. Still less do we have the answers for mental illness. What this church is doing is a confession of helplessness: we don't have the answers. But we can provide some palliative care.

After all, Jesus called on us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, care for the sick and the imprisoned. He didn't mention fixing the underlying problems. All so good if we can. But if we can't...?

So sad, too bad, if this inconveniences the privileged. Like the woman cited earlier, who cannot be bothered to step over her less fortunate brothers and sisters. She should stay away from Mass, maybe, if she cannot bear the sight of the Crucified.

Nancy

OK Meaghan.

The question is not what I or Tim or anyone else is 'personally' doing. That, in and of itself, will not define the problem or, by itself, find a good, human and permanent societally healthy answer.

***

You say you are in a position of ignorance and don't know the why's of the situations. But there is one why we do know, although we all work out of various degress of ignorance. That is the human condition of sin for ALL of us.

However. Those who are not willing/able to put their shoulder to the wheel have a lesser vote, of necessity, than those who do. And criticizing from the sidelines is unbelievably cheap.

If you have an answer better than giving these people a safe place to sleep during the day, we're all ears.

Why are you not on the streets? This is personal merit? Please explain.

Nancy

Excuse me.

The real problem here is that these people inconvenience the rest of us. If this article were about sleeping in a vacant lot by the church I doubt there would be any negative messages.

Jesus inconveniences you-all? I am less than impressed.

Alert, "pro-life." Your posts are where???

anonymous

Tim makes a couple of good points, and so does Caroline. The issue of safety is a practical thing that no one else here has touched. Here in New York, there's times around churches that I don't feel safe. I esp. avoid churches that I know have homeless people around them at night. It is simply not wise for a woman to hang around these areas sometimes- you see drug deals, etc.
Providing food and shelter for homeless is admirable. I am sincerely wondering though, not being "mean," when I ask what kind of spiritual direction homeless people get. When they sleep in a church during the day, is there anyone giving them a Salvation-Army type pep talk about their soul? I know there's those who'll say this doesn't matter as much as getting someone food and shelter. Helping the suffering is important- but in a world where suffering will NEVER be eradicated, our final goal must never be forgotten. for some, this will be the only consolation they'll have (the poor man outside the rich man's gate), and hopefully, the final consolation for us all.
Finally- I think sleeping in a Church should be the last resort. NO, I don't think they should sleep on the street! But a church building of some other type is preferable, with beds, or cots, not pews. As a place of worship, which it primarily is, one just shouldn't have to worry about things like security. I've smelled pot outside church and grown very angry at the crazy-loud f-bombs dropped there, esp. when kids are around. These kinds of things are legitimate complaints, and a good balance has to be made.

Gerard E.

The part of me that should be outraged by homeless people catching their daytime snooze at St. Boniface's is mitigated by a number of factors. First, based on my one and only trip to the City By The Bay, it was quite clear that it doesn't have nearly enough facilities to house these lost souls. Next- all big cities attract such people. Mostly because the institutional snakepits that imprisoned them for decades were closed en masse. With no suitable alternatives. Second, the Church does what no other institution will do, and is usually the court of last resort. Finally- my late uncle spent large portions of the 1980s on the street of downtown Philly and other metropoli. Would make late-night phone calls to Dad from one stinking southern jail or another. Until he wound up in Miami- wound up in the middle of the Overtown riots wracking that town during the 1989 Super Bowl. Found expired six years later in the flophouse that became his final residence. There but for the grace of God go I. And don't think I know it- family tradition and such.....

Nancy

The poor you will always have with you. Jesus of Nazareth.

Whenever you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me. Jesus of Nazareth

I think sleeping in a Church should be the last resort. NO, I don't think they should sleep on the street! But a church building of some other type is preferable, with beds, or cots, not pews. As a place of worship, which it primarily is, one just shouldn't have to worry about things like security. I've smelled pot outside church and grown very angry at the crazy-loud f-bombs dropped there, esp. when kids are around. anonymous

Mike Petrik

I'm torn on this one, but I do think each pastor has to determine how best to meet the spiritual needs of his parish. I have no problem attending church in this type of environment. But my wife does, mostly a safety concern.

I don't have all the answers but I do think that asking folks what they are personally doing does not advance the discussion. If Tim says that he runs a homeless shelter in his house does that make his observation any more or less valid? Of course not. Asking the question, frankly, presupposes a nasty self-righteousness that is not helpful. Nancy, are we to argue over who does more? Do you want to compare hours of service or dollars donated? I don't think any of that responds to the fair competing concerns raised in this thread.

Meaghan

Last comment Nancy as you seem not to be able to understand what either Tim nor I have stated and just are trying to deride us. Why are we not given the same courtesy and acceptance as the homeless of whom you so lovingly speak? There seems to be a hierarchy of personal worth in your eyes, and the 'privileged' you speak of so contemptously don't seem to have it. Am so glad the God I believe in died for all, and not just those you deem worthy. (BTW, if the 'privileged' all disappeared tomorrow, who would provide the means of care for all these 'helpless' people? Certainly wouldn't be the church or the government).

God is not the cause of any sin or the effect thereof, and no, there is no 'lesser' vote. Those comments stem neither from an understanding of Christianity or our governmental structure.

How do you know I'm not on the streets? (Tim obviously has been and you speak the same to him). And what is personal merit? That doesn't count either. Is that your reason for being involved?

Discussion does not seem to be what you are about, which is too bad as it is an important subject. Thanks for your comments.

Nancy

We are all open to suggestions.

If this church in this article is on the wrong track, what would you-all suggest? And your suggestions would be based on what-all personal experiences with the problem? (I don't think that's an unreasonable question. After all, if you suggest to GM that their accounting procedures are inadequate, they'd want to know what your background was in accounting.) And you have no personal experience? And if so, your basis for your opinion would be what?

If anyone here is on the streets, we'd be especially interested in your input. What would help? Can we help? How??

Discussion is what I'm all about, Meghan. But informed discussion. Not just folks shooting off their mouths.

gretchen

I like the story but, Nancy, when you say "There is nothing to stop anyone, including your sister-in-law, from attending daily Mass or adoring Jesus in the Eucharist", I would say, regretfully but truthfully, the smell, the stink, the stench. And, unless they scrub down the pews everyday, the germs and residue. It's just a sad fact.
On another note, couldn't they let them sleep there at night, as long as they are supervised? Psychologically, it would be healthier.

Mike Petrik

There are no perfect answers to homelessness. I have served on the Metro-Atlanta United Way board for twelve years, including its emergency human needs committee. We recently embarked on a joint venture with the City of Atlanta to eliminate chronic homelessness, and we are making considerable progress. We have converted an old police station and jail into a well-functioning and safe shelter, and have integrated it with programs leading to training and jobs. No matter what, though, some people will still choose to be on the street, including many who are con artists. We can offer to help all, but not all will accept our offer.
A church is a house of worship, and all who wish to worship should be welcome. But it is not a suitable place for people who do not wish to worship, even if they are homeless. A community, even a parish community, should easily be able to craft better solutions using closed schools and other government buildings.

grateful_catholic

I hope that what's at work in this situation is *not* a tacit judgement that the space in which we worship is the most expendable of all the spaces at our disposal, the one whose specific purpose is least important to us - as opposed to homes, workplaces, airports etc.

Samuel J. Howard

"On another note, couldn't they let them sleep there at night, as long as they are supervised? Psychologically, it would be healthier. "

I was wondering the same thing.

Mary Kay

Having recently discovered this blog, perhaps some of my thoughts have already been covered, but here goes:

It occurs to me that the largest difficulty with discussions about the homeless is the tendency for "one size fits all" generalizations. As someone said above, there is a wide variety of reasons why someone is homeless, some more easily "fixable" than others.

Tim does have a point in that there are some people who would keep the homeless in a dependent position.

However, to generalize that those abusing substances reflect all of the homeless is a real disservice to those who are too frightened to close their eyes at night. (Of course that raises the question for me as to why they don't go to a shelter overnight where there's at least some supervision.)

To respond to Tim's point of furthering a sense of helplessness or victimization, the other possibility is that some of the homeless are simply gathering their resources and strength to go to the next step.

I am aware of safety concerns. Going to Mass in a neighborhood that serves the homeless requires heightened awareness and caution. But that's simply part of the territory. It's important to keep it in prayer and become known to the "safe" people there.

Donald R. McClarey

A few thoughts:

1. If the Church wants to run a flop house, it should establish one rather than use a Church as an informal one.

2. Homeless people who are crazy need to be reinstitutionalized, rather than left to wander the streets, a menace to themselves and a potential menace to others. I have no doubt that conditions in such institutions would be far from ideal, but they would be superior to living on the street. Relatives of such individuals should try to assist them, as frustrating an experience as that often can be.

3. If there is a more liberal city in America other than San Francisco, I have yet to hear of it, and California is as blue a state as they come. Surely with such concentrated liberalism a solution to the homeless problem could be found in San Francisco? Come on liberals, you always run your mouths about helping the poor, pony up the bucks now to remedy this situation in American liberalism's Mecca.

4. Fundamentally people living on the streets is a police problem. Court decisions have hampered the ability of the police to remove homeless people from the streets and to take them where they can receive help. These wrong-headed decisions need to be reversed.

5. Political accountability. Homelessness is a classic urban problem. Mayors and city councils must be forced by their constituents to remedy the situation or nothing will be done. Stop gap measures such as churches being used as informal shelters is no stubstitute for effective government action.

Tim Ferguson

Well, Nancy, since you've let this slide into somewhat of an ad hominem (I certainly don't think Meaghan is "shooting off her mouth", nor am I, and I would like an apology for that comment). How about reciprocating? I've already stated above what I did when I was working in the parish which had a number of homeless members and guests. What are you doing? (other than insult those with genuine concerns about their own safety and health - perhaps the woman you deride who doesn't feel safe going to St. Boniface for Mass is justly afraid of being assaulted, or unable to make it through Mass without feeling nauseated by the smell).
Personally, I don't think that everyone need to have an experience with every possible aspect of the human condition to discuss it intelligently. I have never lived in the Sahara, nor have I ever built an igloo. Yet, if I saw someone trying to build an igloo in the Sahara, I could certainly comment: That's not a wise thing to do.
I don't find the homeless to be an "inconvenience" as you seem to imply I do. I find them to be my brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore of inestimable value. Of such value, in fact, that I refuse to say: "Let them sleep their days away in a church and wander around the streets at night. They really can't be expected to do any better."
That being said, let me also restate that I think most of what St. Boniface does is very admirable. Between St. Boniface and Glide Methodist Church a good deal is being done to treat the homeless, the unemployed and the underemployed with respect dignity and worth. There is assistance there to get people the help they need to pull their lives together.

the magic rat

If my spouse is addicted to heroin, I'm not going to buy the syringes and hold the spoon while she cooks her junk. In recovery lingo, that would be called enablement. Might make me feel good about myself for being so accepting of her, self-destructive problem or no, but it does her a hell of a lot more harm than good.

At some level, allowing the homeless -- at least, those who refuse real help -- a place to indulge their shiftlessness, acceptance without qualifications guaranteed, is doing nothing less. It's enablement writ large.

Meanwhile the chorus of teary-eyed cheers from angry bleeding hearts like Nancy enables the enablers.

Mary Kay

Mike, your post makes the most sense. You are, of course, correct in that worship space is for worship. Meals and sleeping arrangements are best in a space separate from worship. That's not to say that the homeless should be 'hidden' but that the space be used for its proper function.

Thanks for the distinction as I had been caught up in the discussion about the 'presence' of the homeless.

Jason

Here's an article about a priest I know, who opened up the chapel to the homeless after a man froze to death outside its doors.

"You may know that that [Lanoue] and I had encountered each other on Saturday, and that I had given him a blanket, but hadn't done anything else. I got back from the Dominican about 1 a.m. on Friday morning, to find that he had died, and that in nine hours I would be doing his funeral. I cried bitterly all night, filled with remorse at my inaction the previous weekend, and vowed that I was going to do something - whatever I could - to prevent it from happening again."

It's a tough situation. The Church isn't in Pleasantville. Charity can only go so far. What about the real danger of desecration and theft?

Homelessness is a problem without a solution, IMO, unless there is a radical change in the way society approaches these things.

http://www.dotnews.com/deathstirsdebateatBMT.html

S.F.

I'd like someone to study how often Catholic blog comments sections turn into "I'm a better Catholic than you" fight. To be fair, it's usually one person saying "That's nice, but..." and then another person not answering the "but...." instead going into the I'm a great Catholic and you aren't bit. I really don't get it.

Nathan Ael

Me neither, S.F. But we all do it. Its the mystery of evil at work.

We are all Christians, and we all know that we are commanded to love our neighbors.

Check out the Franciscan Outreach program. They treat the homeless with respect, but they also demand accountability. We'll feed you and shelter you - because you are a human being - but we also expect you to get a job, to get out of addictions, and to give life another shot.

And we don't expect it because we think you are deadbeats who out to be thrown into jails and institutions. We expect it because we love you, and we want you to have a full and joyful life.

No Christian disagrees with helping the homeless. We just have different ideas about how to do that - mostly revolving around more or less focus on mercy vs. accountability. I know there can be both.

God Bless, and peace.

Mike Petrik

What Nathan and Ael said....

Mike Petrik

Obviously, I meant "S.F. and Nathan." Oops.

Benedetto

Wow. Lots of vibrant comments here.
My point way back at the beginning was that some people who are very compassionate, and even volunteer at homeless/addicted/etc. day care and residential centers, including some run by Catholic nuns, do not think that converting a Church (meaning specifically that liturgical, worship space) into a shelter is a good thing. Yes, by all means take care of the homeless. But worship space should be worship space, not daytime crash space. Or is the Church no more than a collection of park benches in a dry, warm space? Maybe not.

Nathan Ael

What Nathan and Ael said....

I like it. ;)

Nancy

Here's the real problem:

the smell, the stink, the stench

So delicate we are.

On Calvary, that Day....there was smell. The bowels of the condemned let loose...stink. Stench: of blood, excrement, death.

Indeed. Let us avoid such unpleansant things. We who are protected, let us protect ourselves. We who will do little or nothing, let us be sure to do less even.

Nancy

Meals and sleeping arrangements are best in a space separate from worship.

Meals are separate from worship??

Think about the Eucharist.

Benedetto

Nancy's rhetoric is extreme almost to the point of comedy. Yes, on Calvary there was smell, stink, stench, etc. What is the correct response? Burial for the dead. Are you suggesting we bury the folks flopped down at St. Boniface?

These people are not, I believe, receiving proper care. I am familiar with other service centers which provide, and require, that day and overnight "clients" shower, do laundry, and otherwise make themselves fit to be in the company of other human beings. yes. Provide showers. Provide laundry. Provide soap and towels and water and detergent. Provide healthy food. Provide rules (thou shalt be clean of drugs and sober, or thou shalt not come back.) Men and women may not sleep in the same area.

Yes, by all means provide proper, humane care for these people. Provide laundry machines. Provide showers. Provide healthy food. Provide guidance. This happens. I know the nuns that do it.

But do not provide "crash space" in a church with little or no real services, as a way to further the career of a social welfare activist who shows signs of beginning a career in San Francisco politics. Where are the showers? Where are the washing machines? There is no reason to leave people in their dirt and stench. It is not humane. In fact, this sort of "help" can be very degrading.

That is mistreatment of vulnerable human beings.

Nancy

At some level, allowing the homeless -- at least, those who refuse real help -- a place to indulge their shiftlessness, acceptance without qualifications guaranteed, is doing nothing less. It's enablement writ large.

Meanwhile the chorus of teary-eyed cheers from angry bleeding hearts like Nancy enables the enablers.

"'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you? When did we see you naked, and clothe you? When did we see you imprisoned, and visit you?'

"'I tell you, when you did it to the least of these you did it to Me.'"

magic rat. The "bleeding heart" is the Sacred Heart.

It's OK. Your view. You and the Sacred Heart can have it out in the end. I won't be there.

Nancy

Benedetto, how little you know about the mentally ill homeless. How fortunate you are - for these afflictions are for the most part hereditary - not to be in their position.

Yes. Surely they deserve better. Secure housing, showers, all that. But the secular society, for a variety of reasons, isn't prepared to provide that. And in many cases the mentally ill cannot take advantage of it when it is offered, because of their illness.

This one pastor is like all of us. He's not a mover and a shaker in the ways of the world. But he's willing to open his space to the hopeless. So that they can sleep safely. So shoot him, he's a bad man, right?

Maybe you object to the smell. Or something. But you'll excuse my ignoring your delicacy if you're not doing something on the ground about this problem.

Troll

It's NOT called a worship space. It's called a nave. In this modern way of speaking, to where should I excuse myself when I have to visit the men's room? The peeing space?
Catholics should have no part in dumbing down our language.

sj

Cut the BS, Nancy. I helped run a soup kitchen for nine years that was held every Saturday in the basement of my Methodist church. Now I'm Catholic and play a minor role in our church's van feeding program. So I know a little bit about the homeless and hungry. The problems others have alluded to are real. Violence -- I've been threatened many times -- once with decapitation by someone claiming to be a vet who wanted to eat two meals before others had gotten one. Another time when I had to usher someone who was selling newspapers in the sanctuary out of the building. Theft -- at the Methodist church we lost a cross off the altar to someone who snuck into the sanctuary. Other disturbing behavior -- I escorted a 200 lb woman in a bikini off the pulpit before the 11am service --- obscene propositions made to the teenage volunteers.

The destitute deserve many things -- one thing not to forget is that we treat them with the respect of requiring the same standards of decorum from them we expect of our other brothers and sisters.

Nancy

I'm a visitor here, mostly.

I have to say that I'm not exactly edified by the "pro-life" contingent on this blog. How quick to condemn someone who would adopt a frozen embryonic child... how quick to condemn those who would help the mentally ill.

Nancy

Of course the mentally ill present problems, sj. How inconvenient to us all. How much better if the society at large had a better system for dealing with this.

But.....it doesn't. There is no hint in the article in question that the homeless are a source of the problems you cite. So you assume that??? Isn't that the pastor's realm?

Nancy

one thing not to forget is that we treat them with the respect of requiring the same standards of decorum from them we expect of our other brothers and sisters.

And if, because they are mentally ill, they can't come up to your standards? It's the Outer Darkness for them?

kimberley

We have lots of homeless at my church. Some are insane, some are drunks, some are con artists. However, they all understand on some level that they have to behave while in the church and they do. They never bother anyone, they don't beg in the church and do so only on the outside steps. Yeah, they stink so I don't sit next to them but I would never dream of going to the pastor and asking that they be driven out. In God's eyes they may be far more precious than a smug suburban sinner like me.

Troll

What's next Nancy, are you going to attack St. Martin of Tours for cutting his cloak in half instead of handing over the entire thing and freezing to death himself? Should he have killed his horse on the spot to feed to the man? You should consider that there are others who are concerned about the homeless and are doing a lot to help them. It isn't only you. Stop attacking those who you consider to be insufficiently committed to the homeless because their opinions (informed or not) on how to help them differ from yours. Since the 1980's there have been many homeless advocates who were long on rhetoric and short on actually providing help.
Oh, and I know you'll ask, since you will rate my opinion on what I do rather than if I am correct or not, I don't do ANYTHING to help the homeless, but sometimes I let my children sleep inside the house when it's cold out. My wife too.

Gareth

If you have concerns about safety, crime, desecration, theft, 'enablement' of addiction, 'indulging shiftlessness', political accountability ... just put aside these thoughts for one moment.

We are all asked to bear witness to Christ in our lives, as difficult as this may be, as inconvenient as this may be, as unsafe as this may be. We will all continue to fail to live up to this ideal but we must try.

Reflect on what Christ would have done in this situation. Take some time to think about it. I cannot see how you could possibly come to the conclusion that He would have disaproved of this.

Nathan, I believe Christ does demand accountability from us. However, He is still there for us when we try to be accountable yet fail to manage it. He still offers us His refuge. How can we possibly say these people seeking His refuge aren't trying, given the demons they stuggle with? In this case I believe we must assume they are trying, and we must offer them refuge.

'The magic rat' criticises some here for having 'bleeding hearts'! I've never understood what this is supposed to imply, to me it implies there is something wrong with feeling compassion for others

'For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son ...' Jn 3:16

Would you say He had a 'bleeding heart'?

the magic rat

You wear your sanctimony well, Nancy. Like a chainmail suit of stainless steel. Shines so bright, but it must be exhausting to shuffle around in that thing.

Nancy

Thank you, Gareth. You have the spirit of Christ.

Troll, you've named yourself. Your word, not mine.

sj

Nancy, I'm more responding to your arrogance and self-centeredness than to the actions of the pastor. The mentally ill need help and opening the church as a emergency sleeping quarters is not the worst solution while we press for a societal solution. Due consideration should be given to the concerns outlined above. Your response to those concerns with pseudo-pious invective deserves its own criticism, however.

BTW, you might also be surprised to discover how many of the acting-out mentally ill will respond positively to a little structure in their lives, i.e., rules.

Nancy

Yes, rat, I'm exhausted.

Do you carry any burden? Or do you just romp about and do whatever comes into your head?

jay

No danger at all, no danger at all ...

"Greg Jones, 37, figures it out one chilly morning when he starts yowling on the men's restroom floor with his pants around his ankles. He's shot a little too much heroin and he's disoriented. The syringe he jammed into his thigh lies next to him. "

Benedetto

I try again.

Yes, Nancy, I am directly involved with volunteering and financially supporting a center for homeless in an urban American location. It is run by nuns. There are rules for behavior. It is not in a Church. They provide showers and laundry and food and guidance. They collect soap and detergent and shampoo and wash cloths and towels and robes and slippers and food, etc. from the surrounding community. Peopel there are treated like people, not like stray dogs.

I have lived among the very poor, the criminal, and the insane. Only insane people don't care what they smell like; and they need someone else to help them. Poor people, "down on their luck" people, will wash up in the morning, or when they wake. They will even help was dishes in a dining hall. Even the poor have dignity.

I see homeless people daily on the streets of the greater San Franciso area, and sleeping on BART trains. They sleep on porches and in bushes and on trains because these are space that nobody cares about, and these are people that nobody cares about.

Is that the message this Church is sending? That the Church is of no more concern to most people than a bush in a park? And what care do these people get? The care of stray dogs.

But it get written up in the newspapers. Great picture of the pews filled with sleeping bodies. Great "in your face" social justice poster.

But why not actually care for the people like human beings, rather than social justice objectives?

If they don't need the Church for worship and prayer, then call the bishop, ask that it be converted to a homeless service center, and install proper facilities (showers, laundry, dining hall, dormitories or apartments), and get a proper staff. There are plenty of barely used Churches in San Francisco.

But this is a solution that neither adequately cares for the homeless, nor adequately cares for the concept of a church.

Of course, I suspect that after the first stabbing, or the first few "code blue" calls from a fatal OD in the Church, somebody will realize that this "make believe" homeless care center is a bad idea.

But for now, it is great journalism, and a feather in the cap of a few activists.

Nancy

sj,

Nancy, I'm more responding to your arrogance and self-centeredness than to the actions of the pastor. The mentally ill need help and opening the church as a emergency sleeping quarters is not the worst solution while we press for a societal solution. Due consideration should be given to the concerns outlined above. Your response to those concerns with pseudo-pious invective deserves its own criticism, however.

I'm "arrogant" and "self-centered?" OK. Perhaps so.

Interesting.

You know very little of the mentally ill if you think that it can be cured by "rules." Is your evaluation of my mental state on a similar solid basis?

But don't dirty your hands with this whole thing, sj. I'm sure that in your truly pious position (as opposed to my "pseudo-pious" one), and in your non-arrogant, non-selfcentered position, you can suggest to us all the solution to this problem.

We're waiting.

Nancy

Benedetto,

Only insane people don't care what they smell like; and they need someone else to help them.

This isn't quite true. And not everyone who "smells" is receptive to "help."

Yes, Nancy, I am directly involved with volunteering and financially supporting a center for homeless in an urban American location. It is run by nuns. There are rules for behavior.

And for people who cannot keep your rules because they are too sick?? The outer darkness?

The original newspaper article does not suggest that any of the homeless in the story are assaulting worshipers, or that they "smell." Everyone here is importing all this "information."

I SO am unedified by the "orthodox" response to this situation on this blog.

Thank you, Amy, for posting it. That's a positive response, and I acknowledge that. You have a lot of allegedly "orthodox" readers of your blog who have not looked at the gospels lately.

Benedetto

Nancy, your strong feeling blind you. As Yoda says, "This way to the Dark Side leads."

Your just accused the commentors saying: "The original newspaper article does not suggest that any of the homeless in the story ... "smell." Everyone here is importing all this "information.""

Direct quote from this article:

What strikes you first are the snores - gentle, rhythmic rumblings echoing off the 103-year-old church walls and mingling with soft flute music filtering down from loudspeakers. Next, it's the sleeping mounds of bodies and blankets on the pews. Then it's the smells -- unwashed bodies, sweat, bags of half-eaten food, soggy garbage sacks doubling as duffels.

Read it again. Or maybe for the first time. You seem to be somewhat removed from reality in your comments.

the magic rat

"I SO am unedified by the 'orthodox' response to this situation on this blog."

Do you suppose anyone is edified by the stench of your sanctimony, Nancy? Talk about oppressive. Pee-yew.

Mary Kay

Meals and sleeping arrangements are best in a space separate from worship.

Meals are separate from worship??

Think about the Eucharist


Nancy,
You are quite adept at obtusely not understanding what someone says.

I'm not sure how much more clearly I could have made the distinction between liturgy and the services most often offered to the homeless of hot meals and someplace to sleep.

Do you really have difficulty understanding the difference between a casserole and the Eucharist?

Mike Petrik

Nancy reminds me of someone once known as Leo. Probably just a coincidence.

Susan F. Peterson

Obviously there are lots of better ideal places and solutions for the homeless than sleeping on a church pew during the day.

For those who have what it takes, whether politically, emotionally,or financially-please work towards those solutions which seem best to you.

But meanwhile...and there is a lot of meanwhile...don't let us be the ones saying...no, you can't sleep here now because there ought to be a better place for you.

Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker used to say...in essays which continue to be published in the Catholic Worker paper (cost-1 cent..or any donation of any amount gets you a lifetime subscription)...that every Catholic family ought to have a "Christ room" in its house to offer to a homeless person, on a regular basis.

Myself, I am not ready for this. I once let a woman who was technically homeless live in the third floor of my huge Baltimore Victorian for a month or two..she had been nursing an old lover while he died of cancer, and once he died the family had no interest in her remaining there another day. But she wasn't the sort of person we usually think of as "homeless." She wasn't mentally ill; she didn't take drugs or drink to excess; she washed. Such a person(who was or did do these things) in a room in my house is beyond what I think I am able to handle.

I do think I could handle going to daily mass in a church with some people like that sleeping in the back pews, or going in to a church to pray with people like that in the back. One gets used to smells quickly. After a few minutes you don't smell them anymore. The smell mechanism has that built into it. Few of these people are actually dangerous, very few. As for the F word, come on, everyone has heard it, more than once, even the smallest child. I really don't think we have a right to be protected from the sight, sound, and smell of those less fortunate than ourselves.

Years ago I visited the Catholic worker house in New York. I remember that I sat there at dinner nursing my first child; a woman came down the stairs, looked into the room and smiled at me, then went out. It was Dorothy Day. That was an aside I couldn'thelp mentioning. But my point was that I left there marvelling "You couldn't tell the bums from the people." Everyone who worked there dressed from the give-away clothes bin. One sort of crazy seeming homeless lady made me a present of a baby sleeper she had found in the trash, that she had been carrying around in her shopping bags for just such an opportunity. I washed it before putting it on my baby, for sure, but I treasured it for years and remembered her as each of my children wore it. When any of these people dies, the Catholic Worker paper runs a long obituary about them; the workers who have come to know them tell the story of their lives, tell about their particular interests, tell any stories they know like about the woman giving me the baby sleeper. These obituaries grant full humanity to the homeless as individuals in a way one seldom encounters anywhere else. Would that we could talk about this with that way of seeing.

I do think it might be better for some if they could be in mental hospitals. I did my psych nursing rotation at Williard Psychiatric Center in Ovid, NY, shortly before it closed. Because it was so far from where we lived, they gave each of us nurses a dorm room there for the semester. We could just stay overnight between our two days of clinical, or we could go there other times. We could go over and spend time on the wards at night. I came to feel that this was a safe and relatively happy place for some of the longest term residents. In its heyday Williard was a almost a small town, with its own farm, stores, kitchens, and laundry, on a huge campus. Well run, such a place would not be an unacceptable life for a chronic schizophrenic.

But all these places closed, and the money from them somehow didn't fund all of the community mental health alternatives that were supposed to replace them ...and there isn't the political will to fund such, or even safe shelters..so, let's let the homeless sleep in our churches. And, if they will, why not at night? I would think a night caretaker job would be a possible minimum wage type job for a large parish to fund. With all the regulations, probably most churches could not afford to build and maintain a shelter. But, so many have empty rectories now...how about a place for people to shower and do laundry? That seems within the bounds of feasibility. Many of these people will probably never hold a steady job. But for those who might....no way of starting without a shower and clean clothes.

But again, meanwhile...how can we as Christians tell people who have nowhere else, that they can't even lie down and close their eyes?

Susan Peterson

Troll

Nancy,
Nobody here wants to cast the homeless into the outer darkness. Matt. 25 says that we will go to heaven or hell based on how we treat those who are less fortunate. But you seem to suggest that if we want to do anything to help these people improve themselves, that is oppresive. Maybe I am misreading you, please let me know if I am. It is also clear from the parable of the talents that God expects us to make the most of what he has given us, and that includes the homeless. We have an obligation to help them physically and spiritually, and to help them to try to see themselves as God sees them. Not as worthless trash like the rest of society does. You seem to advocate helping them with no "strings" attached, but again, I might be misreading you, you haven't stated this directly. The orthodox you refer to here on this blog are better people than you think. Stop the attack. We all love and admire (and want to emulate) the saints who gave of themselves, in some cases unto death, to help others. There are many Catholics out there who sacrifice tremendously to help others, without saying a word about it to anyone.
Charity does not require us to turn our Churches into homeless shelters. It does require us to take care of the homeless, in whatever way possible, which may, in some cases, include allowing the homeless to sleep in pews.

Scotus

Some of the downtown parishes in LA where I used to drop in for a eucharistic visit when I had the chance between jobs tended to have one or two homeless people in the back pews, sleeping. I never bothered me, in that a church should be a shelter from the world if anything is. But then, I feel secure in a lot of situations where my female friends don't, and that's reasonable enough, given that a 5'4" woman is much more likely to be assaulted than a 6'1" male.

I can tell that this is a touchy issue for you, Nancy, but so far as I can tell none of the people you're jumping on are suggesting that homeless people shouldn't be allowed in the church. What they're questioning is whether, if a parish is going to actually set up a formal program of providing shelter to the homeless, doing so in the back pews without amenities is the best way to do it. It both creates a clash between the needs of parishioners who may feel unsafe or uncomfortable in such a situation, and also provides the homeless people relying on the church with lower quality service than a dedicated shelter space.

Despite the wide range of political beliefs implicit in different people's comments here, no one has suggested for a moment that what St. Boniface's is doing is wrong or that they should stop. What a bunch of people have done is either point out the inherent dangers in what's being done there, and some other things that could be done as well or instead.

Indeed, since everyone who has criticized the current arrangement has either suggested another kind of care or more care, I'm not sure what leads you to say that you're so disappointed in the pro-lifer's response. Where's the Scrooge saying they should die and reduce the surplus population?

Marion (Mael Muire)

I have a close relative facing homelessness. He's 46. His Mom has carried him for years, until she ran out of money, and he was evicted from his apartment. He is depressed, has threatened suicide many times, and used to just sit "holed up" in his apt. and rarely ventured out. Couldn't seem to hold a steady job for any length of time. The family has begged, pleaded, nagged him for years to get help, get into a program, get into therapy, but he just doesn't. We've considered trying to force him into therapy at gunpoint. (Just kidding) Our only recourse now is our hope that if he is out on the streets, he will have to turn to Social Services, and they will insist he participate in therapy.

It's just too weird to have a profoundly depressed, potentially suicidal adult male living in a private home with other people who are trying to earn their living and lead a normal life. The two lifestyles don't mix - they just don't. The sick person's life ultimately "takes over". That's just how it is. And then no one can function normally.

Nerina

I don't think any of us should have to list our "credentials" to voice an opinion about this or any issue. It seems obvious that the people who take time to visit a CATHOLIC weblog are probably not lukewarm pew sitters who fail to think about others. I would say most of the commentors here think long and hard about many issues including pro-life and social justice ones. Forgive me, Nancy, but your barely contained rage (and yes, your posts seem very hostile and simply insulting), doesn't advance the discussion you seem intent on having. This is not the only thread that has provoked such ire on your part. Saying you're "just a vistor here" is dishonest.

As a strongly "pro-life" Catholic, I am concerned about the human person from conception UNTIL natural death. Yes, I actually care about a person even after he/she leaves infancy. I've had to argue this point many times and it has become tiring. It is easy to accuse people of caring only about babies if they happen to speak out more loudly on this issue (because, frankly, dismembering, burning - with saline solutions, and pithing the brain of even one preborn child is horrific). However, every pro-life person I know will speak out passionately on other social justice issues, too. Further, these people are the major contributors to many causes (pro-life, feeding the hungry, medical care in third-world countries, the list goes on and on). My husband and I gladly give more than 10% of our annual income to such groups as Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Medical Mission Board, and, here it comes, American Life League (among others). I also volunteer in an inner-city school, where yes, I feel threatened!! Do my credentials pass muster? Am I allowed to participate in this discussion?

As for the article that Amy posted, I think the Church must always be open to the "least among us." ALWAYS. But as others have posted, some ways are better than others.

scotch meg

Since credentials seem to matter here, I have a family with much mental illness, including a sister who thrives in the structured environment my mother provides, a cousin who was murdered while living on the street and refusing any and all assistance from family, and an uncle who was on and off the street and often living with one family member or another.
I think it's unfair to require everyone to accomplish all things Christ-like. What happened to Paul's differing gifts? Does this mean that we can only speak to those with our own gifts? How do we then learn from one another?
For myself, my contribution to homelessness and mental illness come in the form of prayer. I have had one of my children attacked physically while my sister was visiting and I am simply not willing to put my children (some still small) at risk. I would not feel safe visiting St. Boniface's.
I would have to say that my calling is to prolife work dealing with the beginning and end of life issues, now moving to educating others in the Theology of the Body. But I would also say that when I have given more general prolife talks, I have always included mental illness and homelessness in my talks as prolife issues. It is important for all to understand that those in the middle of life, but on difficult paths, are part of the prolife Church's concerns, too.
Can we not give credit to each other for what we do that is right and leave behind assigning blame? Failure in this area of recognizing each other's differing gifts, it seems to me, is what leads to rifts between "Prolife" and "Peace and Justice" prioritizers (sorry, can't think of a better way to put this).

Radactrice

Our parish had a homeless woman who lived on the back "porch" for several weeks. Eventually, she began to stop people trying to enter the church, asking for payment for being on "her" property. She made it extremely difficult for people to come to church and began to transform the back of the church into a squatters' camp. Finally, the pastor had to ask her to leave because parishioners were fearful to come to church. It's all well and good to help the homeless, but not at the price of preventing the church from being the church. (in the building sense, not the body of Christ sense of church.)

Nathan Ael

What wonderful responses in this thread. I mean - there is a lot of conflict (and that isn't great), but there is also a lot of collective wisdom and grace speaking through all of you.

This seemed to sum it up for me:

"no one has suggested for a moment that what St. Boniface's is doing is wrong or that they should stop. What a bunch of people have done is either point out the inherent dangers in what's being done there, and some other things that could be done as well or instead."

I'd only say that they should move toward opening a dedicated place for the homeless - like the kind of place Benedetto describes. And if there still aren't enough beds, then there are always the pews.

But the point Benedetto makes is perfect: if the homeless are sleeping in pews - then we are failing them. They deserve better, and we can do better.

God Bless, and peace.

Nerina

Scotch Meg,

Well said.

John Griffin

I just came across this posting on Amy's site and read through all the comments. Not quite believing what I was seeing, I read them all again. Frankly, Amy, I think you should close down comments on this post because one person, who is full of, how shall I say this politely, sophistry? is exhibiting anything but what I believe your original intentions were. I think it serves no valid purpose to allow this noble discussion to degenerate to the extent it has because of her. Either that, or try a block against trust fund liberals if your programming permits.

As a physician who routinely, voluntarily, freely offers care and treatment to the ill, the indigent, the homeless in NYC, I can say I have come to the conclusion that this is not the answer. Most are, I have found, manipulative malcontents. Nothing more exotic. Nothing more heroic. Very few, VERY FEW, are actually mentally ill to such an extent that they are incapable of rational thought. Very few, indeed. Most, nearly all, in my experience are self-indulgent lushes who have convinced themselves and most others that they are helplessly addicted to drugs or alcohol, or both and that they can't do anymore. They are not. They are, to emphasize, manipulative malcontents who have learned how to be self-indulgent, unaccountable sponges. I have taken a shiv through my right kidney, been slashed by a razor on my upper arm, been choked almost to the point of unconsciousness, kicked in the groin, and been the recipient of other less notable attackes because of what I believe to have been a pre-meditated intention of robbing me of cash, jewelry, medical instruments, or drugs in order to support their chosen lifestyle.

Now, I'm sure this will get someone's panties in a twist, particularly the one who's holier than (every) thou on this site tonight, who hasn't ever, I suspect, broken an equisitely painted fingernail, but I have an idea for all these unoccupied military bases we're about to have. Actually, not all will be needed. But, I believe fully 95% of the so-called homeless would become fine upstanding, productive citizens, never again to spend idle time on the streets, if they went through a military style boot camp - no drugs, no alcohol, no excuses style of regimentation. Of course, the true mentally ill can and should be hospitalized until they may safely be sent to a structured, purposeful, supportive living environment.

For the rest, medical care, of course. 3 squares a day, of course. Responsibility and accountability instilled through a methodical system of training not unlike what our military recruits experience will cure most everyone of anything that ails them. Anyone here ever been successful in convincing a Marine Gunnery Sergeant that he or she just couldn't? Fortunately, during my indoctrination, I knew enough not to try. And, in the end, as much as I hated the time, and as much as I hated that man, I was a better person for it. And, the funny thing was, I realized how much better my Drill Instructor had become during that time as well!

And, no I'm not suggesting they be taught how to handle weapons, how to win at close in fighting, or how to handle demolitions. But, I am suggesting they re-learn how to present themselves clean shaven, groomed, bathed, with shined shoes and neat, unstained clothes, to be polite and courteous in public, disciplined in their private lives and, yes, maybe even productive by learning some skill or trade, all the while gaining physical strength through closely monitored (medical) evaluations. But, no excuses that I just can't - because they can. Everyone can to some extent.

I'll wager, too, recidivism would be non-existent as well if a second "offense" were treated to the basic course twice as long...or three times as long.

I'm sure some other trust fund phony will snivel about the inhumanity of it all, quoting chapter and (partial) verse of some all forgiving, all-accepting moment attributed to Our Lord's time here on earth. But, remember, He didn't just command us to feed men, we are also instructed to teach them how to fish.

So, with an absolutely at ease Catholic heart (No, not a bleeding heart - that was Our Lord's legacy), intending, in the first instance, to do no harm to my patients, this is what I believe would go a long way to solving what has become a national disgrace - not that these people are on the streets, but that we've allowed them to continue for so long while some (of us here) wring our hands and say how awful it is and criticize, only criticize, anyone else's suggestions and thoughts.

Again, I ask you Amy, consider the judicious use of enabling comments and hold your otherwise sterling site to a higher standard than is exhibited tonight. There has to be a better way.

God bless one and all.

JohnG, M.D.
Major, USMC, Ret.

Tim Ferguson

Nancy, I'll pray for you. Your anger is palpable and misdirected. Instead of focusing on the societal ills that cause the problems, you're venting against good-intentioned people who are looking for solutions: people like Benedetto and Mary Ann and Meaghan and Troll and so many others who don't want to see their brothers and sisters live in filth and despair and hopelessness, but want to see them helped and given dignity and respect, as they deserve. People who think that the first step to giving the homeless help is treating them as people, not as "a problem." If a friend of mine hadn't showered in days and was snoring in church, I wouldn't smile at myself for how tolerant I was being letting him snore and stink - I would tell him to wake up and take care of himself, and if he couldn't do that, I would either help him personally or direct him to where he could get help. Why are the homeless any less than that, and why should they be held to any lower standard than anyone else we love?
I realize I'm wasting my time typing here, since you seem oblivious to any criticism. It must be very lonely there.

the magic rat

Marion:

I have a situation closely similar to yours in my immediate family. My youngest brother is 32 and, unable to live on his own due to a mental or emotional disorder he refuses to acknowledge -- several surprise family interventions made no impression at all -- he lives with my mother. I'm disinclined to get into all the years of ins and outs and ups and downs here, but suffice it to say that I have no idea what he's going to do when my mom's unable to provide a safe and orderly place for him. That day has to come eventually, as she's now in her 70s. The one thing I wish I could sway at this point is my mom's taking him back in and her putting up with his outbursts, odd hours, bizarre behaviors and such. She's enabling him, no doubt. She can't bring herself to kick him out. "Where is he going to go?" she says whenever I've pressed the issue. "I don't know Ma," I say. "All I know is, he's not going to face his issues as long as he doesn't have to. And he doesn't have to while you're giving him a comfy place to stay, no questions asked."

These problems are epidemic right now. Lots of people in need of lots of prayer.

Jimmy Huck

"Come on liberals, you always run your mouths about helping the poor, pony up the bucks now to remedy this situation in American liberalism's Mecca."

True to form, Donald makes homelessness into a political condemnation of Liberals. Pathetic.

On the subject of this post, I ask: What does St. Boniface and its congregation feel about this situation? I think that's the only question that really matters.

Radactrice

There is a fine line between helping and enabling. But we do not help when we enable.

Mary Kay

JohnG, MD

"Most are, I have found, manipulative malcontents...Most, nearly all, in my experience are self-indulgent lushes who have convinced themselves and most others that they are helplessly addicted to drugs or alcohol, or both and that they can't do anymore. They are not. They are, to emphasize, manipulative malcontents who have learned how to be self-indulgent, unaccountable sponges"


I have also worked in the health care system and what you described is not my experience with the homeless.

It's too late at night for the other responses, perhaps tomorrow.

the magic rat

Jimmy Huck, Nancy.

Nancy, Jimmy Huck.

Join wings, you love birds!

julie

All I know is that I was weeping while reading that article.
God Bless the folks at St. Boniface

Gretchen

"Here's the real problem:'the smell, the stink, the stench'"
This is the "real" problem? That people who don't wash themselves or their clothes have a fragrance that is inescapable - unless you escape it by not going into the nave.
"On Calvary, that Day....there was smell. The bowels of the condemned let loose...stink. Stench: of blood, excrement, death." Please, this is absurd. The question was: how can the deranged and down&out be cared for while maintaining the worship practices and devotions of the congregation. My point was that turning the nave into a dormitory is probably counterproductive.
"We who will do little or nothing, let us be sure to do less even." Nancy, here is where you go off the sanctimonious deep end. I know the downside because I've interacted with such individuals. I wasn't saying do less; I was saying this is a "solution" that is as reality denying as many of the sleepers.

peter wilson

This brings to mind the story of St. Lawreince the Deacon who was commanded by the invading barbarians to gather together all the treasures of the Church and lay them before the vandals....St. Lawrence 'collected' all the poor of the city and did as he was told...."Here are the treasures of the Church." Now that's a 'preferential option' if ever there was one.

anonymous

Whew. I had the strangest experience reading through these combox comments. I started out deeply sympathetic to Nancy's POV. But, by the time I'd waded half way through the comments, I was so turned off by the arrogance and sanctimony she displeyed that I switched my allegiance. :o In particular, I was struck by her apparent inability to even remotely consider the possibility that those who disagreed with her might be doing so in good faith, with defensible reasons, and as good Catholics.

Whew. Apparently, it's Nancy's way or the highway. If you care about the homeless but believe there may be better ways to help them, then, in Nancy's book, you are a heartless hypocrite who consigns the poor to the fate of Lazarus. If you endorse her specific prescriptions, then--and then only--are you fulfilling Matthew 25: 31-46. (I can't remember Our Lord ever having said that only a certain manner of sheltering the homeless qualifies in His sight--that they must sleep on pews, not cots, and in a nave, not an adequately equipped shelter. But perhaps Nancy's Bible contains additional material missing from mine. ;))

Bottom line: The closed-minded, high-handed, holier-than-thou-ness has completely turned me off. I've gone from disagreeing with Benedetto and Tim F. to siding with them.

Ack....

Troll

Way to go, Gretchen! The nave, the nave. It sounds beautiful, doesn't it? Say it with me everybody! The nave!
It's not a "worship space."

Joe S.

"But the secular society, for a variety of reasons, isn't prepared to provide that. And in many cases the mentally ill cannot take advantage of it when it is offered, because of their illness."
We have Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to thank for the "variety of reasons". Look up his opinion on the subject. The closing of mental hospitals - so humanely opened by people like Dorothea Dix - is largely the reason for "street people" - many of whom are just a consistent course of antipsychotic drugs away from a productive life.

Nancy

Rage, sophistry, hypocricy, sanctimony, anger, arrogance. I've been accused of them all - and more - in the previous posts, just because I support the pastor who lets the homeless sleep in his unused pews during the daytime.

I am, as you can imagine, edified.

Nancy

Do not, for heaven's sake, allow the sick and dysfunctional to disrupt the comfort of your lives or "worship." They smell, after all.

Please direct any futher objections to the pastor of the church involved. I'm a bit tired of taking the heat for this. I'm sure he can answer you - or, more appropriately, ignore you - more effectively than I can.

Nancy

"If you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me."

I am so out of this discussion. All you who think anyone who defends the compassion of this pastor is "sanctimonious, hypocrital, angry, arrogant" or whatever, take it up with the Lord.

This is supposed to be an "orthodox" Catholic website. I hope you-all are not representative of that viewpoint. If you are it's a sad day for "orthodoxy."

Eileen R

I'm not sure what leads you to say that you're so disappointed in the pro-lifer's response. Where's the Scrooge saying they should die and reduce the surplus population?

I don't get that either. I hate how "pro-lifer" is pulled into every Catholic discussion as some sort of rhetorical flourish.

My own thoughts on the matter. I know that our downtown basilica had to close most of the time because people came in and broke and stole stuff. It's a large place, so it wasn't a problem if someone came and lay down in a back pew, but security was an issue.

Homelessness in my own city takes on another dimension, since three quarters of the homeless are Native. I feel awful beyond description whenever I see those people out there, since I'm of mixed Native and European blood myself, and my little spare-time hobby is North American archaeology and history. To realize how thoroughly destroyed these societies were, to see it every day in broken lives on the streets, is horrible.

You can't rebuild a society by soup kitchens and men's shelters, though there is wonderful work done there. I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that no one will touch the problem for fear of political backfiring if they run into opposition from native groups. Since part of the problem is that we instituted this fundamentally racist reserve system that a few people get rich off, there is opposition when anyone tries to speak of changes. It's a dire problem.

anonymouse

For all of you who are so sure that the sick and dysfunctional are being helped by being allowed to sleep in a church, I suggest you go visit the Tenderloin in San Francisco.

The homeless in SF are hard core homeless. Nearly all are junkies who refuse to move into fed/state/local housing; they are junkies who refuse the help of rehab.

Does helping support the drug habits of junkies help? Does allowing these addicts to desecrate a church by defecating in it help them? Does giving them better access to women that they can rob, mug, and steal from help?

I lived there. I watched them as I walked to work, to the bus, to church. I saw them acting like animals--rutting on the street in front of the church, walking around without pants, attacking women who walked alone, shooting up on the streets in front of children.

Minister to them, yes. But Jesus said "go and sin no more" too--giving them license for animal behavior is not helping them to find the grace of God. It is not helping them to find temperance or moderation. It is not ending the drug addiction and violence that leads them into this state.

anonymouse

Let me add again that bendetto is correct:

if this church has no one to lead but the homeless, and provides no service as a place for prayer, then turn it into a shelter.

the church is not helping when it allows its space to be used this way, but provides no more meaningful help.

I know that the shelters in SF are filled not with the folks who are these. And that's not because of lack of space. It is that the hard core homeless in SF does not want to be in a shelter. They refuse. they will not be part of such a shelter. They do not want to give up their drugs or weapons--and that is what the shelters require.

What is the church doing that helps, by enabling this behavior? This is truly sad and mournful. But this is not the way to reach out and save these souls. It is just a way to allow them to stay lost.

James Freeman

Reflection A, courtesy of Tonio K.:

FUTT FUTT FUTT
(Tonio K.)

this one is for mr. schwitters
this one is for kurt
e toqto to tkagoqdi
exuaigemaeo koqta merz
this one's got a snappy chorus
you can sing along
see, there is beauty even in the garbage
sing the garbage song

you just go:

futt futt futt
futt futt futt
bah!
i am stupid
futt futt futt
futt futt futt
bah!
i am stupid
futt futt futt
futt futt futt
yes
i am stupid
futt futt futt futt
futt futt futt futt
futt futt futt futt
futt futt futt futt

this one has no doubt confused you.
you are maybe hurt?
do not let this life abuse you
you are not so worthless:

(A) you're an integral and valuable
part of some master plan, or
(B) clearly as important as a dirtclod
or that can

sing it out now:

futt futt futt
futt futt futt
bah!
i am stupid
futt futt futt
futt futt futt
bah!
i am stupid
futt futt futt
futt futt futt
yes
i am stupid
futt futt futt futt
futt futt futt futt
futt futt futt futt
futt futt futt futt


Reflection B, courtesy of me:

Given the basic truth of Reflection A -- and the inability of anyone in San Francisco (or anywhere else) to implement a better idea and thereby end homelessness, mental illness, down-on-your-luckism or substance abuse -- I, for the life of me, can't think of a better place for these poor souls than being in the loving presence of Jesus Christ -- body, blood, soul and divinity.

If we as Catholics have a problem with that, it is our problem and ours alone.

Dudley

"The closing of mental hospitals...is largely the reason for 'street people' - many of whom are just a consistent course of antipsychotic drugs away from a productive life."

Do you think there is a computer in that church and that Nancy's gotten ahold of it?

Donald R. McClarey

"Come on liberals, you always run your mouths about helping the poor, pony up the bucks now to remedy this situation in American liberalism's Mecca."

True to form, Donald makes homelessness into a political condemnation of Liberals. Pathetic."

I will assume Jummy Huck that you will not be ponying up the bucks to help out the homeless in San Francisco? The poor should be more than a political slogan for the Left in this country.

Mary Kay

Troll,

In the profusion of posts yesterday, yours slipped past me. However, I want to take the time now to thank you that on my second post here, without knowing me at all, you felt free to insult me for "dumbing down" Catholic language.

Like all snap judgments, yours is invalid.

You are off base on two counts. In the literal, dictionary definition sense (the only one that you have any basis for correcting me if not correct) is that a nave is separated from the pews, sort of like a foyer. Or from my childhood, there was a nave on the side of the main body of the church. I don't remember Gretchen's post, but the back pews do not constitute a nave.

But your snap judgment was mainly way off base because your knee-jerk reaction to the phrase "worship space" automatically put you in the "renovation-wreckovation" discussion which added an unnecessary layer and prevented you from hearing what I was saying.


I used worship space in the same way that Benedetto used the phrase "crash space" a little earlier. In fact, if you had READ my post, you would have realized that my point was that a church is not to be used as a community all purpose room.

You've shown that you wear blinders as much as Nancy does, blinders that are so focused on others being wrong that you don't recognize what they are saying.

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