VANCOUVER — A man panhandling outside a downtown Vancouver Tim Hortons says the restaurant’s owner could have taken better measures than tossing water to remove a homeless man snoozing on the sidewalk outside.
“You could ask the cops to come out and remove him if he’s sleeping out here all the time,” said Les Quechueq, formerly homeless himself, while kneeling outside the centrally located coffee shop in a worn red coat and jeans.
“You (could) ask the city to come out and take care of it instead of you going out and being a vigilante and throwing water on him. You can’t do that.”
The incident on Friday went public after bystanders wrote what they saw on social media. Arianne Summach, 24, heard about what happened from a friend who works across the street, and expressed her disgust on a Facebook post.
She wrote that the owner poured a large bucket of water on and underneath the man, his dog and all of his belongings, including his cardboard bed, while he was sleeping outside.
Summach’s post urging a boycott of that restaurant was shared more than 4,000 times. The man has not been formally identified.
“Shame on Tim Hortons,” Bela Vanyek said on Monday morning, as he wheeled a shopping cart brimming with empty bottles around the corner from the coffee shop.
“Dumping water on the homeless is unnecessary, plain and simple. In the long run I’m sure they’re going to pay for it. They’re going to lose a lot of business.”
Homeless advocate Sean Condon decried the act as unnecessary and ultimately useless, linking it to a general increase in violence against homeless people across North America.
“If you treat homeless people as if they are a nuisance — as though their poverty is illegal — it often gives a sense of legitimacy to harming those individuals,” said Condon, executive director of Megaphone Magazine, a publication sold by homeless and low-income vendors.
“It really dehumanizes them.”
Customers also expressed outrage over the incident, but ultimately did not believe it would affect the restaurant’s bottom line.
Evette Lemesurier called the action “mean,” adding that she had seen the homeless man in question parked outside the Tim Hortons for at least the past six months.
“He’s not here today. But do you blame him?” she said, coffee cup in hand while leaving the restaurant.
“It’s kind of like getting slapped in the face,” she said. “The guy wasn’t hurting anybody.”
An acquaintance of the homeless man, who identified himself only as Pete, said he could understand how a business owner might find it frustrating to deal with a “mess” left in front of the restaurant. But he said the behaviour was still unacceptable.
Customer Joey D’Alessandro said he was shocked.
“I think it’s crazy,” said the film school instructor. “Nobody should get water thrown on them.”
D’Alessandro said he was heartened to hear that the coffee chain had apologized, but hoped it would make some contribution to the city’s homeless community.
Tim Hortons spokeswoman Michelle Robichaud said the owner’s “regretful” behaviour happened in “a moment of frustration,” adding the owner is committed to making a personal apology.
The owner will also donate to the Belkin House, a nearby shelter.
A manager at the restaurant said the owner was not available and declined comment.