LOS ANGELES -- Because of security concerns, the largest Skid Row mission serving the homeless in downtown Los Angeles may have to shut down most of its services while Pope John Paul II is in the area.
"The Union Rescue Mission may or may not have some of its activities relocated," Rick Batson, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department Central Division, said this week.
The mission, which houses close to 700 people each night, is next door to St. Vibiana's Cathedral, where the pope will stay Sept. 15 and 16.
George Caywood, Union Rescue executive director, would not discuss what local or federal security officials would require of the organization. He said only that there would definitely be some "relocation."
The 96-year-old mission shelters 471 transient men nightly, with 86 on beds and 385 on chairs in the chapel. It also houses 185 other men in various rehabilitation programs and serves 2,000 meals a day.
"I can't get into measures that we're taking, but we're going to take the security measures necessary to make sure the pope is in a secure environment, keeping in mind the normal daily lives of the people that live there," said William Corbett, U.S. Secret Service spokesman. The Secret Service is providing security throughout the pontiff's nine-city U.S. visit.
"We're working on a plan so that we can still take care of the people we always do," Caywood said.
Sources close to the Protestant mission say officials there have been eager to avoid any conflict over the visit, but they also have been concerned about how to maintain services to their shelter and program clients.
The pope is scheduled to conduct a prayer service at St. Vibiana's Sept. 15, and will stay at the residence of Archbishop Roger Mahony, adjacent to the cathedral, both nights that he is in Los Angeles.