How can we better help the homeless? It’s an undying question — and as we near the colder weather, it’s a question that is asked even more.
Well, about 15 years ago, San Francisco’s St. Boniface Church began opening its doors to homeless people in need of shelter.
Known as The Gubbio Project, this was initiated in 2004 by Father Louis Vitale of the church, and Shelly Roder, a community activist.
Each day, hundreds of people sleep on the church pews, under blankets provided by the staff.
As The Gubbio Project’s 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.”
While the church is open for churchgoers who need to visit during the day, two-thirds of the building remains reserved for the Project.
And after 15 years of operating in the community, neighbours are still very accepting of The Gubbio Project.
In fact, 95 per cent of those surveyed said they always or usually feel safe at The Gubbio Project, and those who pass through are not treated like prisoners as they are in many shelters.
Toronto has many churches and religious institutions — the city also has its share of homeless people. Is this an initiative that would help Toronto’s community? In the ongoing quest to answer the question of how to help our homeless, perhaps it’s a question worth asking.