St. John the Evangelist Winter Sanctuary
From December 31, 2017 to January 6, 2018, St. John the Evangelist Parish will be hosting a winter sanctuary for the homeless. Up to 25 people will be served dinner and lodged in one of the buildings on the school campus. They will arrive at 6:30PM and depart at 6AM each day.
This is a worthy program in the spirit of Christianity. As Christians, we have been called upon to serve those in need.
As Christians, we are also obligated to protect the weak. For our children attending St. John the Evangelist School, their school is a haven. Similarly, parents assume the safety and well-being of their children will always be first and foremost.
While the winter sanctuary program is worthy, the choice of location potentially jeopardizes our weakest: our children.
The Diocese goes through great effort to safeguard the children of St. John the Evangelist School: the Safe Environment (formerly Shield the Vulnerable) program, fingerprint/livescan requirements, and a closed campus are examples.
The participants in the winter sanctuary are expected to remain in the temporary lodging. However, national fire code does not permit locking or blocking of fire exits from within buildings. The doors that open to the school campus must therefore remain operable and accessible. Consequently, the only safeguard to unauthorized personnel entering campus from the temporary shelter would be security guards. Well-intentioned volunteers may not be sufficient.
Communicable diseases and drug use are unfortunately common among the homeless. Though volunteers will be cleaning the shelter each morning, hidden needles and unintentionally missed surfaces can harbor contagious, serious viruses up to 3 weeks.
- Scabies, a mite that burrows under the skin, can survive 3-4 days on surfaces. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/contagious-skin-diseases/scabies), scabies “spread easily in nursing homes and extended-care facilities”.
- Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease with no cure. It is most common in people who share needles to inject drugs. Per the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm#cFAQ36), the virus can live up to 3 weeks on surfaces.
- In The Health Care of Homeless Persons by James J. O’Connell MD, Stacy E. Swain MPH, Christine Loeber Daniels and Joslyn Strupp Allen MSW (https://www.bhchp.org/sites/default/files/BHCHPManual/pages/chapters_sections.html), Part One details a list of 31 communicable diseases and infections among the homeless.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/directors-page/messages-director/2013/01/overdose-deaths-among-homeless-persons), the leading cause of death among the homeless is drug overdose.
Those who sign this petition are acknowledging the value of the winter sanctuary program but requesting a change in venue off campus.