Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

SF homeless director addresses comments that offended Lyft driver

Jeff Kositsky (Photo: sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com)

Jeff Kositsky (Photo: sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com)

Jeff Kositsky, director of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, is addressing a conversation he took part in during a recent Lyft ride that offended the driver. The conversation included comments that were taken to be anti-homeless and anti-sex worker.

Kositsky initially told Kevin Ebach, the driver, that Ebach had violated his privacy by posting about the incident on Facebook, and said, “I am not embarrassed,” but he’s now apologizing.

In an 11:24 p.m. Facebook post Wednesday (February 8), Ebach, 25, who’s gay, said he’d “picked up two white older men in suits from a restaurant near the Embarcadero.” As he drove them to the Mission district, he overheard them talking.

“I was not totally sure who said what, but what I heard was appalling at the least,” Ebach said.

Eventually, he drove by Mission Street, where there were “several homeless people and tents” set up. According to Ebach, one of the riders said, “‘They are here fucking now too’ in a very harsh tone.”

When they reached another street, they saw a woman on a corner wearing “a short dress,” Ebach said.

“There are prostitutes here now?” one of the men said. “They come and go,” the other said, according to Ebach. The first man responded, “Haha. Come and go in more than one way.”

Ebach, who’d been tempted to kick both men out of his car, dropped off the first man at his destination, and as he drove the other rider home, he asked him what he did for work.

That’s when he learned that the remaining man was the city’s homelessness director.

Ebach, a public school teacher, said, “I drive for Lyft because it’s expensive to live in the Bay. And 90% of the people I meet on Lyft are great. But this experience with this man who supposedly is ‘helping end homelessness’ left me so upset and jaded about people in upper level administrative roles in ‘Social Justice’ fields. … I would like a follow up convo with this dude to understand why him and his buddy made me feel so uncomfortable and made so many comments that are just… mean.” Ebach then mentioned Kositsky by name.

In a private Facebook message Kositsky sent to Ebach hours after Ebach’s post, Kositsky, who said his companion had been the one commenting on homeless people, wrote, “I was a bit boozy and goofy from being tired and feel that my privacy has been violated. I am not embarrassed by anything that I said last night but feel very shamed by the context in which it was presented. I also feel unfairly judged by someone who does not know me at all.”

Kositsky, who offered to have a conversation with Ebach, also said that his companion’s remark on homeless people was “out of frustration that this has not been corrected.”

In a message he posted to his own Facebook page Thursday afternoon, Kositsky said he’d ” reached out to Kevin in order to apologize.”

He also referred to disparaging comments about unnamed employees that had been made during the Lyft conversation. Additionally, one of the riders had “said that [Supervisor] Jane Kim was ‘on their backs’ about a problem, but they would be able to ignore it,” according to Ebach.

“My friend and I were talking about his professional frustrations,” Kositsky wrote. “We were also making light of things we shouldn’t have. I am sorry for offending Kevin and anyone who has read his Facebook post.

“I have spent the better part of my career working to end homelessness; as a case manager, running shelters and developing affordable housing,” Kositsky added. “Yesterday’s conversation does not reflect who I am or what I’ve done for nearly thirty years.”

In a phone interview, Ebach, who said Kositsky has followed up since his initial private message to apologize, told the Bay Area Reporter that several people have commented that he’d violated his riders’ privacy and “I should not be eavesdropping.”

“You should know that if you’re in a Lyft, I’m not a therapist,” Ebach said, so he isn’t required to keep things confidential. He indicated there’s no way for him not to hear what his riders are saying, and out of the 700 rides he’s given, “I never felt the need to share anything publicly until this situation.”

Ebach, who doesn’t know who the other rider was, said what was especially offensive about the conversation was “My background is in social work. I’ve heard other riders have conversation that made me feel uncomfortable,” but since this involved “people in the same field as me, it made it more jarring, more upsetting to me.”

The B.A.R. couldn’t reach Kositsky for comment.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, February 10, 2017 @ 7:57 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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