DENVER – It would appear that a homeless man is sleeping on the bench outside of Father Woody’s Haven of Hope, over at West 7th and Lipan Street.
That doesn’t seem all that surprising; it’s a day shelter for the homeless in Denver.
But the man outside of Father Woody’s is made of bronze. He’s 7-feet-long, nearly 500 pounds in weight and it’s one of 55 statues like it around the world. A shroud covers his head and there are nail holes in the feet. The man is “Homeless Jesus.”
“It was by accident, I happened to see on the internet a couple years back where the Pope was blessing this sculpture that was done by an artist in Ontario, Canada,” says Don Gallegos, the founder of Father Woody’s. “So I called him in Ontario to find out about it because I wanted to know how to get it.”
That was years ago. The statue was shipped to Gallegos in 2015, but it’s been in storage until building renovations could be completed. Father Woody’s finally installed it three weeks ago, on a bench outside of their doors.
Outside of Father Woody’s on Wednesday is Christopher Kendall, a homeless man who uses the services offered by the shelter. Sitting next to the sculpture, Kendall says he isn’t religious, but he has found meaning in this art.
“Don’t hold this against me, but I’m an atheist,” he says. “But in terms of this particular sculpture, what could be more powerful than a man that we hold in such high esteem be sharing ‘our experience.’ It’s a very powerful symbol.”
Timothy Schmalz is the artist behind Homeless Jesus. Each one requires about eight months of his time.
Scmhalz will not send more than one Homeless Jesus to a city, so more people, in more places can be exposed to the art and what it stands for. Kendall, perhaps, describes it best.
“I think the spirit of Christ is forgiveness, generosity, helping your fellow man, love, grace. And seeing a homeless Jesus is indeed a very powerful symbol. You know, that he suffered as we do,” he says.
Schmalz does, however, craft other statues based on the Bowinter stormok of Matthew — there’s one for “I was sick and you looked after me,” and another for “I was in prison, anTimothy Schmalzd you came to me.” Schmalz’s team says they hope those pieces can be in other parts of the city, like hospitals or prisons.
“He rather have three in three cities than three in one city,” Gallegos says. “I think this is where (Homeless Jesus) belongs.”
The statues cost about $35,000, including about $5,000 in shipping. A donor paid for the statue in Denver.
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