You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat the most vulnerable among us.
Meet Collier Gwin, of San Francisco.
Gwin recently found himself at the center of a controversy regarding how the unhoused are treated after a video went viral that showed him turning his water hose on a woman who appeared to be homeless in front of Barbarossa Lounge on Montgomery Street. Gwin justified this display of cruelty and privilege by explaining that she wouldn’t move when San Francisco authorities allegedly told her to.
The footage drew outrage, with many appalled by the treatment of someone who appears to be homeless. But the man with the hose, Collier Gwin, told SFGATE he’d do it again.
“In that situation, the street was being washed and she refused to move. She started screaming profanities, and becoming very belligerent,” Gwin, who owns an art gallery next to Barbarossa Lounge and is not affiliated with the popular bar, told SFGATE. “… and at that point, the cleaning on the street was directed more in front of her.”
Gwin said that the woman has been in front of his building and adjacent businesses for almost two weeks. He added that he has called the San Francisco Police Department up to 25 times seeking assistance, and that the person was told by officers from the San Francisco Police Department that morning that she needed to move.
Yeeeeeah—even if Gwin’s story is true, it doesn’t justify treating a human being in an unfortunate situation like she’s a pest that simply needs to be washed away.
In fact, according to the San Francisco Police Department, the woman had complied with police orders and moved after police responded to a call at 8:40 a.m. Monday regarding “an adult female who was blocking a business’ doorway.” Then the police were called back a few hours later after Gwin hosed the woman, but both Gwin and the woman “declined further police action at that time.”
And, of course, Gwin defended his actions when confronted about the viral video.
“Nobody can get into their stores or into their offices. And so consequently, you know, if she got wet when that was happening, it was because she was there getting wet,” he said. “She did not move when she was told by the police, by the paramedics, by the social services that she needed to move.”
Meanwhile, Barbarossa Lounge’s owner, Arash Ghanadan, let it be known that Gwin is in no way affiliated with his business.
“Unfortunately, this incident happened in front of our business and people are assuming that the person was affiliated with us. That’s not true,” Ghanadan said.
In other words, Gwin was literally not minding his own business. Instead, he appears to be yet another white man who thinks he’s entitled to police the public.
Although to be fair, Ghanadan also mentioned that he and other business owners in the area have called both SFPD and social services to try to get the woman some help.
More from SFGATE:
He said just last Friday, six to seven police vehicles responded to incidents in the neighborhood directly related to her actions.
The San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) told SFGATE in an email that it cannot comment on specific cases, but in general, “for individuals who are not ready to accept the services HSH has to offer, [the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team] continues to outreach and build motivation to ensure services are available when they are needed.”
Again, it’s an unfortunate situation, but it doesn’t excuse Gwin’s apparent disregard for the woman’s humanity.
“I do want people to know that definitely what you see on the video is not the appropriate way to handle it,” Ghanadan said. “We certainly condemn that.”
And he’s not the only one who condemns Gwin’s behavior.
“This attack during the midst of life threatening weather changes and less than adequate shelter resources was cold and callous to say the least,” said Tyler Kyser, policy director at the Coalition on Homelessness. “Staying dry is the most important thing people have to do to avoid hypothermia when they are living outside on the streets so this attack is beyond being anti homeless and is a direct attack on this woman’s life. Violent acts committed by housed folks against our unhoused neighbors needs to stop and we hope that this woman who was attacked is able to get respite and justice in addition to a true exit from homelessness.”
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