Art gallery owner who hosed down homeless person in SF finds it 'hard to apologize'

SF art gallery owner Collier Gwin spoke with ABC7 after a video of him spraying a homeless person with water went viral.

Dion Lim Image
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Man who hosed down homeless person finds it 'hard to apologize'
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The San Francisco art gallery owner seen in a viral video spraying a homeless person with water is defending his actions.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The art gallery owner seen in a now viral video, spraying water from a hose onto an unhoused person, is stopping short of apologizing and is defending his actions.

UPDATE: SF gallery owner filmed spraying unhoused person with hose arrested, charged with misdemeanor

Edson Garcia, co-owner of Brioche Cafe recorded the cellphone video 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 incredulously.

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

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

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

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ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim tracked down the man with the hose, art gallery owner Collier Gwin, who admitted to his actions.

"I totally understand what an awful thing that is to do," he said. "But I also understand what an awful thing it is to leave her on the streets."

Gwin says there were repeated attempts to help the person over the past couple weeks and that other nearby business owners have complained about their presence blocking the sidewalk and entryways. He says the police reports don't seem to help.

"We called the police," he said. "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 they refused to move and resisted his help in moving their belongings down the street, he sprayed them down as a last resort.

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

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This isn't the first time we've seen methods to deter congregating.

In 2015, St Mary's Cathedral installed sprinklers as a way 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 person 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 is with the Coalition on Homelessness. She says the nonprofit is working on a program to deploy specialists when requested, to assist with those experiencing a crisis. She has these suggestions in the meantime.

"Consistently calling 311, consistently looking up different mental health services that are in San Francisco," she said. "Some places provide emergency derives to come out a person going through crisis."

VIDEO: SF neighborhoods using planters to discourage unhoused people from setting up encampments

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?" she asked. "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," he said.

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

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

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."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The unhoused person was previously reported as a homeless woman. The story has been updated to reflect they identify as a man.

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