A sculpture of a “homeless Jesus” laying on a park bench was recently installed on the grounds of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village, Ohio, to make a profound point about how homeless people are treated in our world. Within 20 minutes of the sculpture being installed, a local resident proved the point of the artist by calling the police.
This art installation is a traveling exhibit, and according to the St. Barnabas church, similar incidents have happened at other churches where the sculpture was installed.
“Yes, within just a few minutes of the statue’s arrival, the police were dispatched to investigate a report of a man sleeping on a park bench. This is apparently a common issue with various Homeless Jesus installations around the US and Canada. The caller surely contacted the police out of genuine concern and the responding officer was excellent: he was extremely professional and eager to learn more about the sculpture and its intended message. We have nothing but gratitude and respect for the Bay Village Police Department,” the church said on it’s website.
The exhibit was created by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, but was later purchased by the Community West Foundation and has been traveling to churches and other religious organizations since October of 2018. It is scheduled to stay at St. Barnabas in Ohio until Dec. 1.
In an email to Cleveland Scene, St. Barnabas Pastor Alex Martin, said, “[The sculpture] reminds us that, even though homelessness is a not a significant problem in our immediate neighborhood, we don’t have to drive far to find those in tremendous need. Perhaps the statue will inspire those who see it to take action and help… Seeing Jesus depicted this way reminds us that Jesus identified with the outcast and marginalized in his own day. He spent much of his time with tax collectors and prostitutes, largely to the chagrin of polite society.”
Bay Village police chief Kathy Leasure said that they were called to check if the “person” on the bench was having a medical issue.
“If this was a person laying on a bench, the officer would have made sure the person was not in any sort of medical distress. 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,” Leasure said.
As of 2016, over 100 copies of Homeless Jesus were on display worldwide. The first sculpture outside of North America was installed on the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. The most prominent location is in Rome outside of the Papal Office of Charities.
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