Church dedicates 'Jesus the Homeless' statue in downtown Orlando

Statue depicts Jesus sleeping on bench under blanket


ORLANDO, Fla. – A downtown Orlando church on Wednesday dedicated a controversial statue named "Jesus the Homeless."

The statue is located outside the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando at the corner of Jackson Street and Rosalind Avenue.

The bronze life-sized statue depicts a man sleeping on a park bench covered in a blanket, shrouded under a blanket. The faceless figure is nameless until it's given a second look. Crucifixion marks can be seen on the bare feet.

"It's quite stunning and it draws attention, people pause, it's life-size," the Rev. David Swanson News4Jax's sister station WKMG-TV earlier this year. "You could easily mistake that for a homeless person on a park bench."

The artwork is the creation of sculptor Tim Schmalz and has brought some controversy. The pope has blessed it, while others have shunned it. Some have complained it does not represent their view of Jesus.

Swanson disagrees.

"It's Matthew 25, that, 'When you did it to the least of these, you've done it to me.' It should be a reminder to people that we've done a lot in our city that has improved our lives, things that entertain us, but what have we done for the least among us," said Swanson, whose work with the Commission on Homelessness made his downtown church a perfect fit for the statue -- and the cause. "Per capita-wise, Orlando has one of the highest homeless populations."

Swanson estimated there are roughly 900 homeless people downtown and another 600 in the woods nearby.

The church spent $40,000 in donations to bring the statue here in April. The money came from a church member who wanted a way to honor his late daughter.

"In caring for the homeless, we actually come in the very presence of Jesus. This changes us as well as other people," said Spencer Pfleiderer, director of Compassion Corner.

The pastor thinks this way, people who see it will be encouraged to help the homeless.

"I think this will have significant impact on the lives of people who see it," Swanson said. "The responsibility that we share to serve the least and the most vulnerable among us, and to consider the dignity and worth of all people for they are created in the image of God."

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