San Francisco gallery owner seen on video spraying homeless woman, declines to apologize

Dion Lim Image
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
San Francisco business owner sprays homeless woman with hose
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.

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's sister station, KGO-TV, and defended his actions, saying he was frustrated with the inability of the city to get help for the woman. He said he finds it hard to apologize.

"I totally understand what an awful thing that is to do, but I also understand what an awful thing it is to leave her on the streets," 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 just after 6 a.m. on Monday.

"I turned to the side and saw the guy pouring water to the lady," he said.

Garcia, who has seen the unhoused woman in the North Beach neighborhood before, sometimes asks her not to block the doorway to his café, and has never found her to be belligerent.

He adds that given the weather conditions, the man's actions appeared especially cruel.

"It was cold and raining. She was screaming saying 'OK I'll move I'll move!' It's not fair to see people doing stuff like that."

The art gallery owner, Gwin, says there were repeated attempts to help the woman over the past couple weeks and other nearby business owners have complained about her presence blocking the sidewalk and entryways. He says the police reports don't seem to help.

"We called the police. There must be at least 25 calls to police. It's two days in a homeless shelter, it's two days in jail, and then they drop them right back on the street."

Monday, when Gwin says she refused to move and resisted his help in moving her belongings down the street, he sprayed her down as a last resort.

"This woman is a very, very sad situation. She's very psychotic."

This isn't the first time San Francisco property owners have used unusual methods to deter congregating by the homeless.

In 2015, St Mary's Cathedral installed sprinklers to prevent sleeping in doorways. In 2019, Clinton Park residents installed boulders to keep the homeless community away.

While others in the area describe the woman in this video as a nuisance, homeless community advocates say while service can be slow at times, there are better ways to deal with these situations.

Laketha Pierce with the Coalition on Homelessness says the nonprofit is working on a program to deploy specialists when requested, to assist with those experiencing a crisis. She says options including calling 911 and mental services, including some organizations that will provide rides for those undergoing a crisis.

Pierce denounced Gwin's actions, saying no matter the frustration, the behavior is unacceptable.

"What if that was my mother, or what if that was my aunt? It's horrible to see it happen to anybody."

Gwin says despite the threats and constant phone calls for interviews, he's not apologizing yet.

"I find it hard to apologize when we've had no help with the situation."

As for Edson, he makes this call to those in the community.

"You want people to respect you, you have to respect them."

The incident happened outside of Barbarossa Lounge, which is next to the art gallery. The lounge's co-partner Arash Ghanadan says they are not affiliated with Gwin and released this statement in response to threats and negative response from the public.

"Barbarossa Lounge has been made aware of a video that has begun to circulate on social media, which was filmed outside of our small business. Barbarossa is in no way associated with the inhumane actions portrayed in the video. Upon investigation it appears the actions are those of a neighboring business owner. We are extremely disappointed in this individual's behavior and in no way support such actions. We have been informed that further formal and media investigation is underway. Barbarossa strives to support our local community and treat all passerby and patrons with equal respect and dignity."