Dirk, Kathleen and Amy on the job bright and early.

Homeless people in Over-the-Rhine have a safe – and clean – place to sleep thanks to Dirk, Kathleen and Amy, three members of St. Francis Seraph Parish who show up each day at 7:30 a.m. each day to sanitize all the surfaces in the church.

Friar wearing mask

Br. Tim Sucher dons his safety mask.

“We’ve had the church open for about three years” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 10-15 folks had been using the pews as daybeds, says Pastoral Associate Tim Sucher. About three weeks ago, “When all this [COVID-19 crisis] started erupting,” they decided to go beyond the regular cleaning practices to ensure everyone’s safety. Since then about 25 people with nowhere to sleep have been coming regularly, but that number is starting to diminish, Tim says, now that The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is providing short-term accommodations at local hotels.

Normally a security guard is on hand while the church stays open, but the parish recently added two extra guards, one to clear the steps where people were sitting in too-close proximity, another to ensure social distancing across the street where gatherings are common. 

“The other thing to address is of course the main reason the church is open, because it gives people access to bathrooms,” Tim says. “It’s a challenge” with the temporary closing of Mary Magdalen House, which provides showers and toilet facilities. Fortunately, the agency rented a portable toilet for Republic Street, “so people can have some dignity.”

(St. Francis Seraph Parish is in Cincinnati, Ohio.)