San Francisco: a city filled with creativity and diversity. Whether it be the art pieces created by the many artists, or the ordinary people living day to day; San Francisco is the one city that allows individuals to express themselves artistically. With this said, there is an estimate of over a thousand murals created by a diverse range of artists scattered throughout San Francisco. There are also over 50 art museums & galleries and 90 memorials & monuments. Being known for the city’s contemporary art, or Abstract Expressionism, one thing that artists are starting to keep an eye out for is the homeless that camp on/near their art. With there being a huge homelessness crisis, you can find close to around 8,000 individuals that are without shelter, some giving no respect to their environment or anything around them. That lack of respect towards their environment looks something like the feces being left around, rise of drugs, garbage, etc. From art galleries, museums, to actual pieces of work, individuals value their creativity and feel as if the homeless ruin that enjoyment for them. In fact, some of these creative individuals become so attached to their art and the way it’s viewed, that it leads to disrespecting others without thinking about themselves first.
For instance, in January of 2023, an SF art gallery owner named Shannon Gwin was caught hosing down a homeless woman right outside his art shop. Owning the “Foster-Gwin Gallery” in San Francisco, Shannon Gwin wanted to make his point of having a clean environment surrounding his art pieces, stating to “Move!” as he aimed his water hose directly towards her face. Without hesitation, repeating himself, he began to continuously spray the woman on the sidewalk down, giving her no time to react or respond back. Finally stopping, the woman decides its best to leave, without the involvement of the cops; however, was later seen at the hospital a few days later. With Shannon Gwin being white, and the homeless woman being black, many also assumed discrimination/racism played a role towards the actions that had taken place. Not only did Gwin admit to what he did was wrong, he was also arrested and charged with battery.
11 thoughts on “SF- Art vs. Homelessness”
The complete dehumanization of homeless people to the point where people feel confident in hosing homeless people to get them out of the way of art is such an inhuman social phenomenon. To blame homeless people for being unclean, drug addicts, etc is completely missing the point, the homeless aren’t unclean and drug addicts because they want to be, it is just what tends to happen to people who live on the streets and experience all the trauma that entails. If the artist wanted a clean and tidy environment for her art, maybe she should direct her hose towards the psychopathic system that allows homelessness to even exist in the first place, and not to the victims of such a system.
I see homeless as a reflection of society’s well-being. The great number of homeless people in this nation does not only have an effect on society, but also does homelessness greatly impact this affected individual. In Germany, as an example, homeless is a „choice“, bluntly spoken. In America it is not. With a little bit of misfortune it can happen to all of us. So, showing indifference towards a homeless persons situation simply portraits a lack of human decency. Maybe, if the owner of this art gallery would have „aided“ this woman to gain access to sufficient resources, perhaps there would be no reason to sit on the street…
It is pathetic that an artist would blame a person for living in front of their art when that person has nowhere else to go. It is one thing if someone was vandalizing their art, but these people are simply trying to make it through the night. This is a good demonstration of the wealth gap in San Francisco and the negative affects it has on the city.
It’s sad to see someone hosing another person down, especially someone in unfortunate circumstances. I understand wanting to preserve art and wanting to display it in a nice area, but it doesn’t excuse having a lack of compassion. San Francisco needs to do better for all their people in order to avoid situations like this. Homelessness is something that needs to be addressed at a larger scale than it currently is, so far it’s been more of locals trying to fix this issue rather than our government.
It is sad to see that some artists are more concerned with their art pieces than with the people who are homeless in the city where the art was created. I understand feeling pride for one’s work and wanting to protect it, but if you are creating art in public places then you need to appreciate the public space where it is created and not try to change it. I mean if you think about it, it was an acceptable place for you to create your art, but now it’s not acceptable for you to display it? However, if you are going to try to change it into a more “acceptable” place, then let the proper authorities handle it and don’t try to hurt those in your way.
I believe that people are more important than artwork, and I was glad to read that Gwin was arrested and charged with battery. It’s true that the problems with homelessness have increased and become significant, but homeless people are not exactly to blame for those conditions, and the blame should be directed at the government or city officials who are in a position to resolve such issues. I understand the importance of respecting art work or art galleries, but homeless people are people too. They are part of society and they deserve our respect and our empathy.
This is very unfortunate as I understand wanting to preserve art, but I do not believe it justifies hosing an actual human being down. As homeless people have enough to deal with being homeless, I think it is very disrespectful to do such a thing. I doubt homeless people also want to live in filth, but unfortunately there are very little resources for them and they continue to be mistreated. I believe the anger people are feeling is being misdirected at homeless people themselves, rather than local governments that should be doing something to help relieve the homeless crises. With Shanon being white, I believe that they should have understood their privilege not only with race, but class as well.
Unfortunately, this is a problem that plagues many major cities, including San Francisco. Especially after the pandemic, the homeless population has surged in most major cities and has become an issue everywhere, despite shelters and other organizations trying to help. I’ve read multiple stories like this where people eventually become so fed up, that they result to physical altercations which ends up with them in trouble. Art is such an important piece to many cities and while I know that homelessness can’t always be helped, I would assume that most people, regardless of housing status, would have the understanding to protect this.
I cannot say that I find this shocking. The number of homelessness has increased over the past 5 years. I have worked with the homeless population and this story is not any different from stories they are sharing with us in time of intake. I do agree that San Francisco is known for its contemporary art, I was in the bay area for New Years, I was amazed by the amount of murals the city but also amazed by the number of people who living in the streets. In my time there I was able to speak with a few local agencies that primary focus is to decrease the rate of homelessness, but it seems as an impossible action in a place were help is not given to everyone or it very limited. I do agree that the actions done by Shannon Gwin were morally wrong, I do believe that there were better ways to prove a point and not having to hose down a human. I do also support the idea that living the streets dirty with trash or feces is not the best way to ask for help. It is important that both parties become aware of their actions and are hold responsible, in some cases many will argue that it was an action of racism but I don’t believe it was done with that action. In contrast, I see it as a call for help and a time to increase the resources.
San Francisco was once a place where culturally diverse people brought great foods, arts, and cultures together. It is, undeniably, a melting pot. It is sad to see San Francisco slowly declining with how unorganized and unprofessional the local government handles this situation. But, I think it is also essential to ask whether they (homeless people) want to integrate back into society or if they are comfortable living like that. Also, as someone from the San Francisco Bay Area, I do not think this action was derived from racism. I have seen too many encounters where one race was verbally harassing a homeless person of a different race, and those encounters included every single race. The homelessness problem and the following behaviors are more significant than just a race issue. It is a social issue that regular people cannot solve. Unfortunately, the local government is also not reliable in solving this issue.
It is so interesting to see how there is art just in the mere process of protecting art. I have always known there to be a homeless issue in San Francisco, and while this action was considered an offense, it showed how much one valued their own artwork.