By Krista Kroiss and Bentley Freeman
The owner of Dizzy Dean’s Donuts recently threw water toward a sleeping unhoused woman and then blamed her for it in a video circulating on social media. The woman says in the video that her clothing became wet and that she had nothing else to wear.
The incident, which took place Oct. 23, went viral on the popular PublicFreakout page on Reddit and then the Eugene local subreddit after being posted Nov. 5, and drew widespread condemnation. Eugene Weekly spoke to the shop owner, Dean Weaver, about the incident, as well as to some local advocates for the unhoused who have been giving free doughnuts to homeless people in the wake of the incident.
The video, from a first-person perspective, shows Weaver walking toward an unhoused woman resting against a trailer parked near the doughnut shop on West 11th Avenue in Eugene sometime after dark. Once near the woman, the camera pans away and water is heard splashing on the ground. The startled woman responds angrily with expletives, and Weaver says, “You aren’t putting fires around here.”
As Weaver walks away the woman says, “You just dumped water all over me, I don’t even have any clothes to change into,” to which Weaver responds, “It’s all your fault.” When he steps back into the doughnut shop, chuckling can be heard in the background.
Weaver says there was a small fire behind the woman, which can’t be seen in the video, that he was dousing, and that he didn’t intend to pour the water on the sleeping woman. He was focused on stopping the fire, he says.
But the woman says in the video that Weaver dumped water on her clothes. On the night of Oct. 23, when Weaver says the incident occurred, the high was 45 degrees. Wet ground, evidence of rain, can be seen in the video.
Weaver says that in the past he has spoken with an unhoused person who has lit small fires near the store, and he assumed it was the same person. “I thought it was the same guy, because he’s done it several times around here,” Weaver says. He says he does not know the woman in the video.
In an email to EW, the Eugene Police Department says it received a report about the video around 5:39 pm on Saturday, Nov. 5. The statement says EPD is “following up to investigate the circumstances and hopefully determine the woman’s identity.” As of press time no more information on the woman has come to light.
Readers voted the doughnut shop second best in the area in EW’s annual Best of Eugene readers poll, which led to comments on social media. EW does not change published contest results, as newspapers are a record of history, but has updated the Best of listing with information about the incident.
Weaver says that he did not talk to the woman before putting out the fire due to what he says were fears for his personal safety, and admits “that was probably a mistake.” He says, “I’ve had fires thrown at me. That’s why I put them out first, and we’ll discuss later.” Weaver adds, “And I’ve had other things thrown at me, also, by just asking people to leave, so I always prepare for the worst.”
Weaver adds, “I would apologize for my actions as far as I wish I could have done it differently. But I was in a hurry, and I didn’t have that well thought out.”
Eli Varedas, a medical doctor and a steward with the nondenominational spiritual space in the Whiteaker, Alluvium, says Weaver’s actions were deplorable.
“Really despicable and intolerable action towards someone who should have been afforded compassion and a more dignified reaction,” Varedas says of the water dumped on the unhoused woman. “That’s a very dehumanizing thing to have happen to you.”
Alluvium gives away around 3,000 pounds of food every week through its Free Market program and food pantry to people in need. Volunteers went out to homeless encampments at Washington Jefferson Park on Nov. 7 and gave out doughnuts to people there. They are planning on giving away Voodoo doughnuts and warm meals for this upcoming Thanksgiving as well.
“The real enemy is not the enemy of Dizzy Dean’s Donuts,” Varedas says. “The real enemy is the hyper-concentration of wealth.” If we don’t do something about disparate wealth, he says, the number of marginally housed and unhoused people will increase.