Viral video of hosed unhoused person raises concerns, questions for help for mentally ill

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Friday, January 13, 2023
Viral video of hosed unhoused person raises concerns, questions
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Local leaders say the individual is now getting help. But what about people on the street who have severe mental illnesses?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Cellphone video of an unhoused person being sprayed with a hose by a San Francisco art gallery owner is raising a lot of questions and concerns.

Local leaders say the individual is now getting help.

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

But what about people on the street who have a severe mental illness?

Some possible options include conservatorship -- a process of getting people into psychiatric treatment or placing them with a guardian.

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

The San Francisco art gallery owner seen in a viral video spraying a homeless person with water is defending his actions.

The unhoused person being sprayed in front of a North Beach gallery is known by some people as "Q."

North Beach Citizens is a homeless services nonprofit in San Francisco. Executive Director Kristie Fairchild met Q when the pandemic first began.

"She is very isolated," said Fairchild. She believes Q needs help.

"I have observed her walking in the middle of the street, being naked on the street, screaming," said Fairchild. "In my clinical lay person observation of doing this for 20 years, she's probably experiencing schizophrenia."

RELATED: Fallout after viral clip of SF art gallery owner hosing down homeless person, police investigating

The art gallery owner videotaped spraying water on Q said there were repeated attempts to help the individual. He also said he called police at least two dozen times.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin represents the North Beach neighborhood.

"There are clearly instances of individuals who are not sound of mind, who are dying on our streets, that certainly need to be taken in and given care--even if they are unwilling or are so traumatized that they avail themselves of the care that is out there. In limited circumstances, it is appropriate, and Q may be one of those individuals," said Peskin.

Fairchild said Q has been in and out of hospitals and believes conservatorship would help.

MORE: 3 SF emergency departments have the highest percentage of unhoused patients across the state

"The conservatorship would really allow for some oversight for someone that can't maintain the need and medication so they could be stable within their lives," said Fairchild.

State Senator Scott Wiener said he has been pushing for statewide support for conservatorship.

"So we are working this year on a state level to make it easier to conserve people who clearly need to be conserved and have the county make decisions for them for a period of time so they can get healthy and stabilize and get back on their feet and make decision for themselves," said Wiener.

According to Wiener, about one-third of homeless people suffer from mental health or addiction problems. He said we need to have more treatment available for them.

MORE: SF closes Tenderloin Center. What's next for 400+ people who received services every day?

Not everyone needs conservatorship. But for the small minority of people who do, Wiener said we need more mental health beds and more infrastructure---be it hospitals or supportive housing.

"We need it to make it less hard to get them into conservatorship. It's about saving their lives," said Wiener.

Jennifer Friedenbach is the executive director the Coalition of Homelessness.

She said that conservatorship should only be used in rare situations where people are harmful to themselves or to others. Or it would be for those who are so gravely disabled and cannot care for themselves.

"It's sometimes necessary. But, it should not be our go-to tool to address mental health issues," said Friedenbach.

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