A homeless man sleeping on a park bench reported to Ohio police was actually a sculpture of Jesus to raise awareness about homelessness.
Within minutes of the statue’s installation this week, a police officer went to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village, a community west of Cleveland, to investigate, the Rev. Alex Martin tweeted.
“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. Within twenty minutes...” Martin tweeted.
The church installed the “Homeless Jesus” statue because “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.” According to the church, this is a common problem in communities that have displayed the traveling statue.
“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,” the church said.
The response to the statue “speaks to its power,” the church said.
“Responses to Homeless Jesus will vary and we should avoid shaming anyone for their reaction. One of the goals of the sculpture is being less quick to judge, after all,” the church said.
In a statement to Cleveland Scene, Bay Village Police Chief Kathy Leasure confirmed a police officer responded to the statue on Monday. If it had turned out to be a homeless man, Leasure said an officer would determine whether the person needed medical help or shelter, the news outlet reported.
“There are hotels in nearby cities that will give homeless individuals a free night stay. The officer could have helped to facilitate this,” Leasure said in a statement to Cleveland Scene. “If the person did not want or need anything, the person would have been permitted to stay where they were.”