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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A historic, landmark church downtown is dealing with a new demon.
At the First Presbyterian Church, they say homeless drug addicts are sleeping, vandalizing, even relieving themselves on church steps.
Some community groups are working to move the homeless to make way for worshipers.
For 245 years, the first Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh sat on the site on Sixth Avenue. The landmark house of worship was built on land granted by William Penn’s heirs. As you might imagine, church members have a lot of pride.
“If you could put the church any place in America today, you would put the church right where we’ve been for 245 years,” Pastor Tom Hall said. “(It’s) right in the middle of what many people say is the most livable city.
But it’s not livable for everyone. Pastor Hall is greeted by passed out, addicted people, and worse, every Sunday morning.
“There was excrement, there’s urine, there’s needles, condoms … it’s really tough,” Pastor Hall said.
Police and ambulances are called, maintenance cleans up the mess, and then it happens all over again.
The church is not alone.
“The stuff that happens here, happens everywhere,” Pastor Hall said. “It’s all over town. The low-level vandalism, the removal for intoxication or addiction or overdoses. It doesn’t even generate reports.”
The community groups, including the downtown partnerships, are trying to do something about it. They provide meals and shelter, and missionaries attempt to minister to the homeless.
“They’re going to try to find the people that are willing to go to shelters, they’re going to try to find them shelters,” Pastor Hall said. “But they also engage the bad actors and say ‘the police are coming, you need to leave now before you get arrested.’”
Police recently nabbed a wanted felon on the church steps, and as it turns out he was a ring leader of the group. Now that he is in jail the problem has lessened somewhat. But the homeless folks, they just end up somewhere else.