The meek may inherit the earth, but parishioners at a Bushwick church increasingly want them off their front steps.
Congregants at All Saints Church at Flushing and Throop avenues are having their compassion tested nightly, as the exterior of their historic house of worship is swarmed by homeless men who leave makeshift beds, blankets, syringes and even human waste in their wake.
Head usher Andy Rodriguez said that homeless people have always been a presence outside the church in the evening, but as of late, their behavior has become much worse.
“They pee and defecate right at the entrance to the church!” said Rodriguez. “Everything has to be hosed down in the morning.”
Though the aftermath may be disgusting, the people using the church as sleeping quarters are desperate for safe haven — whether there are better options available or not.
Juan de Jesus, a 70-year-old man from Puerto Rico, often sleeps on the concrete beside the Throop Avenue entrance. De Jesus seemed completely unaware of homeless services that are available to him and said he had no friends or family on which to rely.
In a nearby stairwell, a sleeping man appeared to have soiled himself.
Once De Jesus and others departed the towering, 116-year-old church, a strong odor lingered at the entrance to an adjacent building used as offices and a prayer room. In another nook beside the main entrance, a pile of filth sat in a corner beside a bottle of vodka.
In the back of the church, custodian Jose Luis Garcia had gathered about a dozen big boxes that he had collected on Monday morning.
“I’ve found boxes, blankets, sometimes even syringes — right on the [front] steps,” said Garcia.
Both Garcia and Rodriguez said that some of the homeless people even had committed the ultimate act of desecration: having sex in a cardboard shack right outside the church.
“It’s getting out of hand,” added Rodriguez.
Churches are supposed to provide a refuge for the downtrodden, Rodriguez noted — but the parish must also appear inviting to parishioners. Besides, the church has been renovated recently, including new doors and fencing — and churchgoers do not want to see the money invested go to waste.
“You have to have these kind of relationships [with the homeless],” Rodriguez said. “But there has to be a line! Eventually you’ll lose the church! We had to get new doors because of the pee stains!”
The pastor of All Saints Church, William Chacon, was away on a retreat for the week, according to a secretary.
A spokeswoman with the Department of Homeless Services said that an outreach team would be dispatched to the church immediately, prompting the inevitable follow up in these pages next week.
— with Stefano Giovannini
©2010 Community News Group
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