Nearly 15 years ago, St. Boniface church in San Francisco began opening their doors for homeless people in need of refuge from the streets. The effort was started by Father Louis Vitale and community activist Shelly Roder, in 2004 and is known as The Gubbio Project.
Hundreds of people each day pass through the church, using the pews to sleep on, and they get blankets from the staff.
“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 project’s website states.
The facility is still open for local churchgoers who want to visit throughout the day, but 2/3 of the church is reserved for the Gubbio project.
“This sends a powerful message to our unhoused neighbors – they are in essence part of the community, not to be kicked out when those with homes come in to worship,” the non profit organization says. “It also sends a message to those attending mass – the community includes the tired, the poor, those with mental health issues and those who are wet, cold and dirty.”
Some homeless shelters can feel like prisons and can be incredibly dangerous. However, according to a survey, this project is different in this regard. “95% of those surveyed said they always or usually feel safe at The Gubbio Project: for this population who live on the streets, fearful of being beaten up or having their things stolen, this statistic is the most telling as to the success that we are having,” they said.
In addition to a place to rest, the church offers warm blankets, socks, hygeine kits, and massage services.
If you want to find out more about the Gubbio project and their amazing story, watch the video below: