Recent estimates suggest that there are about 550,00 people in America who are unhoused at any given night. A large percentage of those who find their way to shelters are supported by groups based on religion. These organizations include forty-one percent of emergency shelter beds for individuals, and about 16 percent of those for children. For the last 15 years, the St. Boniface Catholic Church in San Francisco, California has taken to heart the teachings of The Bible by alleviating the unhoused night in its pews as part of the Gubbio Project’s outreach project.
After a hard night on the streets about 225 unhoused people arrive at St. Boniface every day to get some much needed rest. Many people who experience homelessness go to sleep at dawn because being up during the night is better for them. During the night, sleeping in public makes people exposed to theft. Those without a house often find it easier to stay warm at night when they’re sleeping.
The church also provides important resources to homeless specialists by providing about 150 blankets a month, 100 pairs of socks a week, and regular hygiene kits containing soap, shampoo, razors, and toothbrushes. In the United States there are few places where the income divide is more pronounced than in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.
The idea that so many must go without food, shelter or covers is troubling in one of the world’s richest towns, one that 75 billionaires call home,Shannon Eizenga, the new executive director of the charity, told the San Francisco Chronicle. The magnitude of the need is immense. We’re living in the middle of a humanitarian . It seems like it’s’ A Tale of Two Cities,’ and this gap is growing more and more every day, she said.
The organization is dependent on donations to keep the work running and now the church is working to fix a broken heating system. It’s super cold in there, and we’re in the coldest time of the year,said Eizenga. The project is based on a set of ten guiding values, the most significant being: All people are worthy of respect, integrity and loving kindness, particularly those who live on the streets or have mental health or substance issues. Rev.
David Erickson of St. Mary the Church, a partner with the organization, believes the research that Gubbio does in perfect alignment with his personal spiritual purpose. We get either indignant or numb, he said. But this is a position where I have a deep experience with compassion. The ability to look at someone in the eye and say,’ May I support you, sir?’ I had a gentlemen going,’ You named me sir! I haven’t been called sir in years!’What they are doing here will not solve the problem, he added. But this is going to do something right now for the issue.