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HousingHomelessnessThe story behind the garden-hose assault outside a North Beach gallery

The story behind the garden-hose assault outside a North Beach gallery

Sup. Peskin's office has been working for years to get help for this homeless person—and city agencies have completely failed them.

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By now, eight million people have viewed the Twitter video showing the owner of a North Beach gallery owner spraying a homeless person with a hose.

There’s a lot more to the story.

The Chronicle talked to the guy, whose name is Collier Gwin; he admits he shot the hose at the person, saying they wouldn’t move from the front of his shop.

The police were at the Foster Gwin gallery this afternoon, but as far as we know right now, Gwin has not been arrested or charged with a crime.

We also know, thanks to SRO Martha Stewart, that the person hit with the hose water has been “taken away,” perhaps on an involuntary mental-health hold (a “5150”).

One of the problems with 5150 holds, which allow a psychiatrist to force someone to remain in a hospital and be medicated for up to 72 hours if they are a threat to themselves or others, is that the people who are hospitalized often get limited care.

The city doesn’t have anywhere near the acute psych beds it needs, so people are sometimes given meds, treated for a few days, and then released, back to the streets, with a prescription they quicky run out of or stop taking.

It’s hard to resolve serious mental-health issues when you’re homeless.

This is, of course, an example of a much larger local and societal failure, personified by an older white man who owns an art gallery taking a cold hose to a Black person who is huddled on the street in the middle of a drenching series of rainstorms.

“This is the way Black people were treated by white supremacists and crooked law enforcement bodies in the 1950s,” Sup. Shamann Walton told me . “This is extremely racist and hateful. Mot to mention treating any human being like this is extremely cruel.”

And in this case, there’s a long history of city failure.

“My office has been trying to get help for this person for years,” Sup. Aaron Peskin told me. He said a cluster of city agencies have been unable to give him information on the person, who goes by the name of Q, because of both federal HIPAA rules and local policies.

HIPAA, of course, is designed to protect patient privacy—but Angulo said it also gives city agencies an excuse.

“It’s been so frustrating,” Sunny Angulo, an aide to Peskin who has been working on the case, told me. “They refuse to tell us anything, so we can’t be patient advocates. Even if the person agrees to release their information, every single department has a different policy. And if they decide there’s no room in the system, and no place for Q to go, they just do nothing and they tell us there’s nothing they can do.”

Angulo said she hopes Q has a warm bed for the night and is out of the storm and has food and treatment—but that after a few days, they may just be discharged back to the street.

“It’s so hard,” she said. “We can’t find out anything, so we can’t do follow up.”

Meanwhile, firing a hose at a person is a crime. “I told the police captain,” Peskin said, “that this man should be charged with assault.”

I emailed the law-and-order District Attorney, Brooke Jenkins, who is usually quick to announce to the press that she’s filing charges. But so far, she hasn’t responded.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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