To many, church is a place where you feel safe and at home. It's where you go to feel welcomed by people who share your beliefs, and to feel sanctuary in times of distress.
I myself grew up going to church every Sunday and found it to be an amazing experience. The music, the community, and the cookies they served after mass (I'm easy to please) were something that I'll always hold dear to my heart.
Every year at Christmas we would make stockings for the homeless, which included things they could use on a daily basis. Shampoo, snacks, mittens, a toothbrush, just some basic necessities that they would otherwise go without.
I remember as I got older, though, that it dawned on me that these people weren't just homeless at Christmas...they needed help all year round. I asked my mom why we didn't do these things more often, giving out help to those that need it, and she didn't really know what to say. It seems that Christmas is when we remember there are people who need help, but then the new year hits and we all focus on ourselves.
Since becoming an adult, I've made an effort through our church to organize more frequent initiatives for those who are less fortunate than us. We are a small congregation, so there's only so much we can do, but it makes us feel as though we are doing our part to end homelessness in our city. On any given night, more than 500,000 people in America will sleep on the streets. That is 500,000 too many.
That's why the Gubbio Project through St. Boniface church in San Fransico is so important.
Started by Father Louis Vitale and community member Shelly Roder, the Gubbio project has been around for 14 years. Every day, hundreds of homeless people are welcomed through the doors of the church and are handed blankets. They are given access to the pews where they can sleep and feel safe.
“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,” according to the Gubbio Project’s website.
“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. 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,” a representative with Gubbio said.
95% of people who attend the church for the Gubbio Project say they feel safe on the premises and that they are treated like people, not prisoners.
The church is still open to those who wish to attend for service, but 2/3 of the church is reserved for those who would not otherwise have a place to stay.
It is absolutely wonderful to witness the power of faith and love expressed through helping others. There is no doubt in my mind that God is watching over this church and the people who are in it.