San Francisco art gallery owner unapologetic for spraying homeless woman with hose
SAN FRANCISCO – A San Francisco art gallery owner was seen in a now-viral video using a hose to spray a homeless woman in front of his business.
The business owner spoke to ABC7 sister station KGO-TV and defended his actions, saying he was frustrated with the city’s inability to get help for the woman. He said he finds it difficult to apologize.
“I fully understand what a terrible thing it is to do, but I also understand what a terrible thing it is to leave it on the street,” art gallery owner Collier Gwin told KGO’s Dion Lim.
The incident was recorded on a cellphone by Edson Garcia, co-owner of Brioche Cafe, while he was on his way to deliver a catering order shortly after 6 a.m. Monday.
“I turned to the side and saw the boy pouring water on the lady,” he said.
Garcia, who has seen the homeless woman in the North Beach neighborhood before, sometimes asks her not to block the door to his coffee shop and has never found her hostile.
He adds that given the atmospheric conditions, the man’s actions seemed particularly cruel.
“It was cold and it was raining. She was shouting saying ‘OK, I’m going to move, I’m going to move!’ It’s not fair to see people doing things like that.”
Art gallery owner Gwin says there have been repeated attempts to help the woman over the past two weeks, and other nearby business owners have complained about her presence blocking the sidewalk and entrances. He says the police reports don’t seem to help.
“We called the police. There must have been at least 25 calls to the police. It’s two days in a homeless shelter, it’s two days in jail, and then they put them right out on the street.”
On Monday, when Gwin says she refused to move and resisted his help moving her belongings across the street, he sprayed her as a last resort.
“This woman is a very, very sad situation. She is very psychotic.”
This isn’t the first time that San Francisco property owners have used unusual methods to prevent homelessness from piling up.
In 2015, St Mary’s Cathedral installed sprinklers to prevent sleeping in doorways. In 2019, Clinton Park residents installed rocks to keep out the homeless community.
While others in the area describe the woman in the video as a nuisance, advocates for the homeless community say that while service can be slow at times, there are better ways to deal with these situations.
Laketha Pierce with the Coalition for the Homeless says the nonprofit is working on a program to deploy specialists when needed to help those experiencing a crisis. She says options include calling 911 and mental health services, including some organizations that will offer rides to those undergoing a crisis.
Pierce denounced Gwin’s actions, saying that despite his disappointment, the behavior is unacceptable.
“What if it was my mom, or what if it was my aunt? It’s horrible to see that happen to somebody.”
Gwin says that despite threats and constant calls for interviews, he’s not apologizing just yet.
“I have a hard time apologizing when we didn’t get help with the situation.”
As for Edson, he makes this appeal to those in the community.
“You want people to respect you, you have to respect them.”
The event took place outside the premises of Barbarossa Lounge, which is located near the art gallery. Hall co-partner Arash Ghanadan says they are not affiliated with Gwin and released this statement in response to threats and negative responses from the public.
“Barbarossa Lounge has been made aware of a video circulating on social media that was filmed outside of our small business. Barbarossa is in no way associated with the inhumane acts depicted in the video. Upon investigation it appears that the acts are of a neighboring business owner. We are extremely disappointed by this individual’s behavior and in no way support such actions. We have been informed that further formal and media inquiries are underway. Barbarossa strives to support our local community and address all passers-by and customers with equal respect and dignity”.
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