A Short History of People Calling the Cops on a Statue of ‘Homeless Jesus’ - DMT NEWS

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A Short History of People Calling the Cops on a Statue of ‘Homeless Jesus’


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Even Jesus, when homeless, will have the cops called on him eventually.

It took all of 20 minutes for someone to call the police on a bronze sculpture of Jesus shrouded in a blanket and lying on a park bench, after it was placed outside the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village, Ohio, on Monday, according to the Cleveland Scene. The church’s priest, Father Alex Martin, documented the experience on Twitter after St. Barnabas announced it was temporarily hosting the “Homeless Jesus” piece, purchased by the local Community West Foundation, to “remind us that all people are created in the image of God.”

“Within twenty minutes of the statue arriving, I was having a conversation with a very kind police officer because someone called to report a homeless man sleeping on a park bench,” Martin wrote on Twitter. “Within twenty minutes…”

After his tweet went viral, Martin directed people to the church’s fundraiser for the homeless. The local police officer who responded to the call was “excellent,” and eager to learn about the statue, according to the church’s website. 

“It reminds us that, even though homelessness is not a significant problem in our immediate neighborhood, we don’t have to drive far to find those in tremendous need,” the church said of the statue on its website. Bay Village, a city of about 15,000 people located near Cleveland, has an incredibly low poverty rate of 2.8% and a median household income about 66% higher than the national average, at nearly $103,000, according to government statistics.

“Perhaps the statue will inspire those who see it to take action and help,” the site added.

The priest’s contact with local police was hardly the first time someone’s called the cops on the sculpture, according to its Canadian creator, Timothy Schmalz. The effective but sometimes controversial piece has been installed in cities all over the world, and there’s even one placed at the Vatican.

Cops were dispatched to Homeless Jesus in Davidson, North Carolina, in 2014, after some residents felt the statue demeaned the neighborhood or was insulting, according to NPR. Two years later, emergency crews responded to calls about Homeless Jesus in Fargo, North Dakota, when people mistakenly thought the statue was a person needing medical attention. And, in Minneapolis, residents have called 911 in recent years out of concern the statue was a real person exposed to the city’s brutal winter.

The same is true for actual, living homeless people. One University of California, Berkeley researcher analyzed 3.9 million 911 and 311 call records out of San Francisco and found 911 dispatches about “homeless concerns” had increased 72% between 2013 and 2017, according to Bloomberg News.

In part, those calls keep coming in because cities are increasingly making behavior associated with homelessness—like panhandling or sleeping outdoors—a crime. After years of advocates charging that policing the homeless is cruel and harmful, some cities this summer finally relented and pledged to pull cops from those calls and send social workers out instead.

But, of course, Homeless Jesus isn’t committing any crime. The statue is meant to reflect the values of Christ, Schmalz said, and show that Jesus is aligned with “the least in our society, not the top, not the billionaires, not the politicians.”

“If Jesus came down today, he would be hanging out with the homeless people, with the marginalized,” Schmalz said. “It’s a benefit to homeless people and the marginalized themselves to understand that they have self-worth and that they are very close to God.”

The Bay Village Police Department did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment about their response to Homeless Jesus, but Police Chief Kathy Leasure told the Cleveland Scene that if Homeless Jesus were real, they would’ve been able to offer help. The church’s website said that the caller “surely contacted the police out of genuine concern.”

"If this was a person lying on a bench, the officer would have made sure the person was not in any sort of medical distress," Leisure told the Scene in an email. "If the person was, the officer would have been able to radio for an ambulance to respond and start rendering first aid. Additionally, if this were a homeless person, the officer would have checked to make sure the person was okay and to see if they needed anything. There are hotels in nearby cities that will give homeless individuals a free night stay. The officer could have helped to facilitate this. If the person did not want or need anything, the person would have been permitted to stay where they were."


via https://www.DMT.NEWS

Emma Ockerman, Khareem Sudlow