|Location||Toronto, Ontario, Canada[note 1]|
Homeless Jesus, also known as Jesus the Homeless, is a bronze sculpture by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz depicting Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. The original sculpture was installed at Regis College, University of Toronto, in early 2013. Other casts have since been installed at many places across the world.
Homeless Jesus was designed by Timothy Schmalz, a Canadian sculptor and devout Catholic. It depicts Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. His face and hands are obscured, hidden under a blanket, but crucifixion wounds on his feet reveal his identity. The statue has been described as a "visual translation" of the Gospel of Matthew passage in which Jesus tells his disciples, "as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me". Schmalz intended for the bronze sculpture to be provocative, admitting, "That's essentially what the sculpture is there to do. It's meant to challenge people." He offered the first casts to St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, but both churches declined. One spokesperson for St. Michael's said the church declined because appreciation "was not unanimous" and it was undergoing restoration. The cast intended for St. Michael's was installed at Regis College, the Jesuit School of Theology at the University of Toronto. Similarly, a spokesperson for St. Patrick's complimented the work but declined purchasing the cast due to ongoing renovations.
In 2013, the first cast was installed in the United States, at the St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina. It was purchased for $22,000 and displayed as a memorial to parishioner Kate McIntyre, who had an affinity for public art. According to the Rev. David Buck, rector of St. Alban's, "It gives authenticity to our church. This is a relatively affluent church, to be honest, and we need to be reminded ourselves that our faith expresses itself in active concern for the marginalized of society". Buck welcomed discussion about the sculpture and considers it a "Bible lesson for those used to seeing Jesus depicted in traditional religious art as the Christ of glory, enthroned in finery." Furthermore, he said in an interview with NPR, "We believe that that's the kind of life Jesus had. He was, in essence, a homeless person."
For the downtown Detroit location, Rev. Gary Wright, S.J. of the Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church has said Homeless Jesus honors and may comfort the homeless people whom the church serves. An anonymous alumnus of the Jesuit- and Sisters of Mercy-sponsored University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, which adjoins Saints Peter and Paul, donated funds for the statue at the church, placing it just across East Jefferson Avenue from Detroit's iconic Renaissance Center towers.
Charleston, West Virginia, received the 8th Homeless Jesus statue in November, 2014.
A cast has been installed on the Via della Conziliazione, the street leading to St. Peter's Basilica outside of the Papal Office of Charities in March 2016. Earlier, Schmalz visited the Pope in Vatican City in November 2013 to present a miniature version of his statue. He recalled about the Pope's reaction, "He walked over to the sculpture, and it was just chilling because he touched the knee of the Jesus the Homeless sculpture, and closed his eyes and prayed. It was like, that's what he's doing throughout the whole world: Pope Francis is reaching out to the marginalized." Catholic Charities of Chicago and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. have both had casts installed outside of their offices. Pope Francis visited the sculpture installed along G Street in Chinatown, Washington, D.C., during his 2015 visit to the United States.
St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo, New York, is now the permanent site for Homeless Jesus, installed during Holy Week 2015. St. Paul's, the Cathedral for The Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, is located at 139 Church Street (corner of Church and Pearl in downtown Buffalo). It was considered Buffalo’s first national architectural landmark in 1851, and is classified as a National Historic Landmark.
In May 2016, a cast was installed at the new main services building of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City along Classen Boulevard in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. An estimated 60,000 vehicles pass the sculpture daily at this location.
In August 2017, a cast was installed at the front entrance of Father Woody's Haven of Hope in Denver, Colorado, at the corner of 7th and Lipan Streets. Father Woody's Haven of Hope mission is to provide food, shelter, clothing, counseling, rehabilitation and hygienic services to the homeless and less fortunate.
Manchester has recently approved an installation outside St Ann's Church. The statue was originally going to be installed in Westminster outside of the Methodist Church's Westminster Central Hall but was eventually rejected. The city believed that the statue would not properly reflect the nature. The Bishop of Manchester reflected on the importance of having Homeless Jesus. He remembered Jesus saying that turning away from helping someone in need is like turning from Jesus.
On Dec. 7th, 2017, a cast of the statue was installed in Nelson Mandela Place, Glasgow, Scotland. Scottish artist Peter Howson has made a painting of a homeless Jesus that will be shown alongside the statue. Glasgow priest Father Willy Slavin helped bring the sculpture to Scotland. He was contacted by Schmalz in 2015, and took the idea to the Glasgow Churches Together association.
In April 2019 a statue was installed in the Gardens of Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas, Liverpool. It was unveiled by residents of Liverpool YMCA and blessed by the Bishop of Liverpool. The unveiling took place in the context of a Homelessness Conference organized by the Parish Church and Crispin Pailing and drawing together politicians with public, private and charitable sectors to address issues of homelessness in the City.
In November 2019, a cast was installed in front of the St. James United Church in Montreal, Quebec, ahead of the observance of the second World Day of the Poor. St. James' Church, Sydney participated in the international vigil for the poor and homeless on 17 November 2019 at its Homeless Jesus sculpture installed outside the church with a service followed by a free lunch for the homeless in the church's crypt.
In April 2022, the image was installed at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila. It was unveiled and blessed by Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jose Advincula on April 10, 2022, coinciding with Palm Sunday.
Reception of the statue has been mixed. According to NPR, "The reaction [to the cast in Davidson, North Carolina] was immediate. Some loved it; some didn't." Some Davidson residents felt it was an "insulting depiction" of Jesus that "demeaned" the neighborhood. One Davidson resident called police the first time she saw it, mistaking the statue for a real homeless person. Another neighbor wrote a letter, saying it "[creeped] him out". However, according to Buck, residents are often seen sitting on the bench alongside the statue, resting their hands on Jesus and praying.
In October 2020, a resident of Bay Village, Ohio called the police to report a homeless person sleeping on a park bench. This call was made within 20 minutes of the Homeless Jesus sculpture being installed at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, in Bay Village. This made national news due to reporters calling out the cities residents for being privileged and ignoring the concerns of the homeless.
By early 2016, some 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 of a copy of the sculpture is in Rome outside of the Papal Office of Charities.
The following list shows some places where copies of the sculpture have been installed.