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A realistic 'Homeless Jesus' statue sparks conversation -- and a visit from police

October 16, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Father Alex Martin hoped that the realistic statue of a homeless Jesus outside his church would inspire conversations about how to care for people in need in his tight-knit Ohio community.

(CNN)Father Alex Martin hoped that the realistic statue of a homeless Jesus outside his church would inspire conversations about how to care for people in need in his tight-knit Ohio community.

It's definitely gotten people talking, especially after someone called the police to report a man sleeping on a bench near St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Bay Village, Ohio.

Martin said a police officer came to the church on October 12, about 20 minutes after the statue was installed.

People in Bay Village, a Cleveland suburb of 15,000, generally look out for each other, he said.

"It's a place where seeing someone sleeping on a park bench would be jarring," Martin said.

He said the officer was very professional and wanted to learn more about the statue and its goals and meaning.

The statue belongs to Community West Foundation, a non-profit group that cares for homeless men, women and families and other people in need in the greater Cleveland area.

The statue has been on display at several churches in the community and will be at St. Barnabas until December 1, Martin said.

Bay Village Police Chief Kathy Leasure said in a statement that officers are trained to help people who are homeless and encouraged residents to call when they see something unusual.

The church is next to a park and the statue was installed near a walking path where it can be seen by walkers and people enjoying the outdoors.

"I've been very pleased that the overwhelming reactions, both within the congregation and within the neighborhood and the folks in the community, has been overwhelmingly positive," Martin said.

Martin said the St. Barnabas has gotten donations from people all over the country, who've heard about the statue and wanted to help.

He said that money will go to the Community West Foundation and Episcopal organizations helping homeless people in the area.

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