In 2004 St. Boniface Church opened its doors to homeless people in need of shelter as part of a project called Gubbio Project, initiated by Church Father Louis Vitale and community activist Shelly Roder. Since then, hundreds of people have walked through the church every day and slept in the pews covered with blankets by staff.
Everyone who shows up is welcomed, respected and treated with dignity. When entering the church, no questions are asked of our guests, and there is no effort to remove entry barriers, registration sheets or admission forms.
This sends a powerful message to our unaccommodated neighbors that they are essentially part of the community and should not be thrown out of the house to come to worship. It also sends the message that everyone can participate in Mass in the community, even those who are tired, poor, mentally ill, wet, cold, etc. Only 2-3% of the church is reserved for necessary projects, but the church opens every day to all local churchgoers.
People who pass through the facility are not treated like prisoners as is the case with many homeless shelters, and 95 percent of the respondents say that the shelter is secure and very, very different. Homeless people are treated kindly despite numerous attempts to force them into laws to prevent the spread of disease. Activists say such laws criminalize homeless people.
According to Mark Lane:
“It means they are criminalizing homelessness. They’ve created four laws against the homeless. No camping, no sleeping in cars, no panhandling and no feeding the homeless”.
We cannot solve this problem by ignoring it, we must choose to help the homeless. This Church is a living example of how goodness, care and benevolence are underestimated virtues. We live in a cruel world, and it seems that many of us have forgotten the value of goodness.