Church douses homeless with illegal sprinklers

A bishop with the Archdiocese of San Francisco said a sprinkler system installed in exterior alcoves at Saint Mary’s Cathedral two years ago to deal with messes left by the homeless was “ill-conceived” and will be removed.

The timed sprinkler system was revealed in a report by KCBS reporter Doug Sovern, whose report included video of the drenchings delivered by the illegal sprinkler system.

Bishop William Justice, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and rector of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption said that the sprinkler system was installed “as a safety, security and cleanliness measure to avoid the situation where needles, feces and other dangerous items” were being left in the doorways.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral is a modern church located atop Cathedral Hill in The City’s Western Addition neighborhood. Justice said the sprinkler system was installed only after other ideas were unsuccessful.

Justice said people who regularly slept in the doorways were told in advance that the sprinklers were being installed:

“We are sorry that our intentions have been misunderstood and recognize that the method used was ill-conceived. … 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.”

Justice said since the archdiocese learned that the sprinkler system required a permit to install and that it may violate San Francisco water-use laws, the system will be removed by the end of Wednesday.

According to Justice, the Archdiocese of San Francisco provides thousands of people with food, housing, shelter and other services each year and that it was not the intention of the archdiocese to do away with homeless individuals in need of shelter.