For nearly 15 years, St. Boniface church in San Francisco has become a sanctuary for the homeless. Each weekday starting at 6am the church opens its doors to an average of 225 unhoused neighbours.
In 2004, Father Louis Vitale and community activist Shelly Roder co-founded The Gubbio Project. They saw an urgent need to provide shelter for the increasing number of homeless men and women seeking refuge from the streets. Since its conception, the project has welcomed everyone into the church. “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 project’s website.
⅔ of the church is reserved for the Gubbio project, with the remaining ⅓ still open for local churchgoers who want to visit for mass in the day. They explain that “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.”
The Three Goals of Gubbio
- to provide a clean, beautiful, quiet, and safe space for people to rest during the day.
- to cultivate a sense of community among the homeless and a sense of understanding and shared responsibility in the broader community.
- to attend to the physical, social, psychological and spiritual well-being of homeless guests who share the Gubbio space at St. Boniface and St. John.
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.
If you want to find out more about the Gubbio project and their amazing story, watch the video below:
Image Credit: TheGubbioProject