For more than 15 years, a church in San Francisco, California has opened its doors to the homeless population. St. Boniface Catholic Church provides blankets to the people that spend the night as well.

The mission was started by Father Louis Vitale and community activist Shelly Roder. It is known as the Gubbio Project. According to the website, the purposee of the Gubbio Project is to inspire dialogue and foster understanding between housed members of the community and homeless ones.

Every day and night, the church pews serve as a comfortable place for people to find respite. The website says, ““No questions are asked when our guests walk into the churches; in an effort to remove all barriers to entry, there are no sign-in sheets or intake forms. No one is ever turned away; all are welcomed, respected and treated with dignity.” 

The Principles

There are a few guiding principles behind the project. One is the belief that all people are worthy of dignity, respect and loving kindness. Another is that the church has historically been a place of sanctuary and shelter, so it continues to serve in that manner.

Compassion is seen as a relationship between equals, not between the wounded and the healer. They work to nurture a sense of responsibility in the greater community.

Every week day, an average of 225 people rest in Boniface church. There are no barriers to entry such as sign in forms or intakes. They never turn anyone away, and the space is also ADA accessible.

The back 2/3 of the church is used as a sanctuary space. Mass is celebrated daily, and the front 1/3 of the church is used for worship. This sends a powerful message to the guests, which is that they are a part of the community and not to be kicked out when people with homes decide to use the space.

For the past five years, St. Boniface has provided various services. About 150 blankets a month are distributed. They also give out about 100 pairs of socks a week.

Visitors are provided with hygiene kits, which include soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion, and about 75 hygiene kits, 75 razors and 50 toothbrushes are given out every week.

They also have Chaplaincy Services 5 hours a day, 3 days every week to give meaningful listening and accompaniment. St. Boniface also provides referrals to outside services and resources with the hospitality monitors.

This commitment to inclusiveness and the utmost care helps the patrons of St. Boniface feel secure. About 95% of people who use the service said that they feel safe.

There has been a few scare tactics for homeless people in San Francisco recently, and St. Boniface provides a welcome change. For example, the city spent $8,700 to install large boulders under overpasses to prevent the homeless from camping out, and even used robots to scare them and report them to police.

The ministry also works through another local church, St. John. The goal is to tend to the mental, physical and spiritual needs of members of the community, both housed and unhoused.

Related Articles: