San Francisco cathedral to remove anti-homeless sprinklers

The sprinkler system installed in doorways at St. Mary's Cathedral would go off every 30 to 60 minutes at night to drive away homeless sleepers.

By Ben Hooper
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SAN FRANCISCO, March 19 (UPI) -- The Archdiocese of San Francisco announced it will uninstall a system designed to soak homeless people seeking shelter in the doorways of St. Mary's Cathedral.

The system, which dumps water onto the ground under the sheltered doorways of the cathedral for about 75 seconds every 30 to 60 minutes, led to widespread criticism after it was revealed to the public Wednesday.


"We're going to be wet there all night, so hypothermia, cold, all that other stuff could set in. Keeping the church clean, but it could make people sick," a homeless man named Robert told KCBS-TV.

The diocese released a statement Wednesday saying it would remove the system "by the end of the day."

"This sprinkler system in alcoves near our back doorways was installed approximately two years ago, after learning from city resources that this kind of system was being 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. The problem was particularly dangerous because students and elderly people regularly pass these locations on their way to school and mass every day."


The diocese said its "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 said church officials also learned the system may have violated the city's water use laws.

San Francisco Department of Building Inspection spokeswoman Lily Madjus told The Washington Post the cathedral was issued a notice Wednesday for "the unpermitted downspout." Madjus said the department's plumbing inspector visited the church on a complaint Tuesday.

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