Church Uses Water Sprinklers To Deter Homeless People, Then Says It Was Just A "Misunderstanding"

It's bad enough when businesses employ tactics to drive homeless people away, but now a San Francisco church that sprayed water on homeless people who sought shelter there, is apologizing, The Guardian reported. Homeless people who tried to take refuge in alcove areas around the church's entrance reported being doused with water, which sprayed on regular intervals from the church's automatic sprinkler system, leaving them and their belongings drenched, according to The Guardian.

According to a statement from the diocese, the sprinklers were installed two years ago, and the church says it informed people regularly sleeping there what was going on. Diocese spokesman Larry Kamer said in the statement that the sprinklers were needed to keep the area free of clutter and trash, including needles and feces, which collected there on a regular basis. Kamer said the sprinklers had the opposite effect of what the diocese intended.

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 sprinkler system looks like little more than holes in the roof of the structure, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, so it's easy to see why someone who didn't know they were there would have missed them.

Designing structures to discourage homeless people from sleeping or gathering outside businesses is a relatively new idea, but unfortunately is gaining in popularity among those who would prefer not to see the homeless (rather than, you know, do something to try and help them). Remember the apartment complex with the anti-homeless metal spikes in its entryway? Sadly, not an uncommon occurrence.

St. Mary's said it was removing the sprinkler system, which, acccording to The Chronicle, had been installed without the proper permits, earning the church a citation from the city's building department.

To be fair, the church's statement contains profuse apologies, and it says while their intentions were misunderstood, the method was "ill-conceived." Still, there were those who were skeptical of the church's handling of the situation. Paul Boden, an advocate for San Francisco's homeless community, told The Chronicle it was "trickle-down economics from the head of a sprinkler."