A MIXED reaction has been given to a new sculpture of a homeless Jesus sleeping on a bench outside St Ann’s Church in Manchester.
‘Jesus the Homeless’ is a near life-size bronze sculpture by the Canadian Artist Timothy Schmalz and is England’s very first one with Manchester’s homeless Jesus now joining the likes of Glasgow, Rome, and many more across the United States.
It depicts the Christian figure lying on a bench, with pierced feet indicating it is Jesus.
The aim of the homeless Jesus artwork is to challenge passers-by to question their attitude towards homelessness and marginalised people.
However, the homeless Jesus prompted the city’s people to give mixed reviews and gave some people a stark reminder of the city’s growing epidemic.
Ilona Burton, 25, said: “I’m not entirely sure I agree with it to be honest. In my mind all I can think is that it’s just going to get in the way of actual homeless people wanting to sleep there.”
Frank, 56, a fine art lecturer, said: “It will definitely provoke people to say certain things but as a piece of sculpture I’m not sure it works really.
“And it seems ironic that a homeless Jesus is outside his own house.”
Damian Carr, 45, a social entrepreneur, said: “I’d like to see this turned into a positive by people using it as a ‘shrine’ to those who have lost their lives sleeping rough in Manchester.
“I’d like to see their names and tributes surrounding the sculpture to highlight awareness of what happens when authorities fail people.”
However, friends Maureen and Brenda from Oldham, who were in Manchester shopping saw the homeless Jesus statue in a very different light.
Maureen, 65, said: “I’d seen it on the TV and wanted to come and see it whilst I was in the city.
“I know it has got mixed reviews but I think if it makes you stop and think about it, then it means it doing something right.
Brenda, 63, said: “I see the link very much so because if the bible tells you everything it does and it is true then Jesus was homeless for a time himself and in need like homeless people these days.
“I think there should be some kind of plaque though because I think if you didn’t know what it was when you were walking past then you either wouldn’t understand or would just walk straight by.”
Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz said: “I’m very pleased to have this sculpture, the homeless Jesus, in the centre of Manchester because it’s really doing what artwork should do.
“It’s really getting out a message and I do believe that this is a very powerful message that Jesus is with the marginalised.
“Hopefully when people see this sculpture, they’ll realise it’s a sacred duty to care for the least of our brothers and sisters.
“To have this sculpture in such a historical place and receiving a message that we should be compassionate is great – it’s a great service for the art and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”
It was unveiled by Dave and Ian, who are both homeless, outside the church this week following a short service of dedication by the Bishop of Manchester along with an improvised musical response from Epiphany.
Churches across Greater Manchester have responded to the growing homelessness crisis by developing a clear plan of action in partnership with others.
St Ann’s Church particularly working on a pilot project called ‘Morning Hours’ providing hot drinks and toast in the morning to those most in need.
Reverend Nigel Ashworth, Rector of St Ann’s, said: “For many people homelessness is not simply about having no place to call home, but about living with some kind of emotional trauma.
“By giving the homeless Jesus space outside our church we are showing that we stand in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, in the same way that Jesus had compassion on them in His earthly ministry.”
With the sculpture being two years in the making, the piece of artwork was paid for by an anonymous donor and St Ann’s has raised the funds to put it in place.
Planning permission was granted by Manchester council after Westminster City Council rejected an application for a sculpture near the Houses of Parliament.
Manchester City was contacted for a comment but did not reply in time for publication.