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Cruise ship could house 1,000 Oakland homeless, official says

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                A tugboat assists as a container ship is prepared for docking at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif. The president of the Oakland City Council in the San Francisco Bay Area is proposing bringing a cruise ship to the city’s port to house up to 1,000 homeless people.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A tugboat assists as a container ship is prepared for docking at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif. The president of the Oakland City Council in the San Francisco Bay Area is proposing bringing a cruise ship to the city’s port to house up to 1,000 homeless people.

OAKLAND, Calif. >> A San Francisco Bay Area city official wants to explore the possibility of using a cruise ship to house up to 1,000 homeless people in the region with a high cost of living and a shortage of affordable housing.

Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan told a council meeting Tuesday that the ship would be brought to the Port of Oakland, but port officials said today the move would be “untenable.”

“We respect President Kaplan’s desire to address homelessness but Port of Oakland docks are designed to work cargo ships, there isn’t the infrastructure to berth a cruise ship,” port spokesman Mike Zampa said.

The port is among the 10 busiest in the nation and safety and security issues in the federally regulated facilities “would make residential uses untenable,” Zampa said.

Kaplan didn’t immediately return a request for further comment from The Associated Press.

Kaplan said she has been contacted by cruise ship companies about providing a ship for emergency housing, and that the companies were reaching out to the Port of Oakland about what options exist to park a ship at the port, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. She didn’t provide further details on those companies.

Kaplan said she plans to present a proposal to the council in January that will be “no or low” cost to the city because residents of the cruise ship would pay for rooms based on their income. The city would not buy the cruise ship.

Homelessness has spiked in Oakland in the past two years with the number of unsheltered people increasing from 1,900 to more than 3,000.

“It could be a great way to house a lot of people quickly,” Kaplan told The Chronicle. “Cruise ships have been used for emergency housing after natural disasters and for extra housing for things like Olympics.”

Kaplan compared her vision for an Oakland cruise ship to something like the Queen Mary in Long Beach in Southern California. The 1936 ocean liner is now a floating hotel with 347 rooms. A room with two twin beds rents for $141 a night and $146 a night for a full-size bed.

“It could be like that,” Kaplan said. “But as affordable housing instead of hotel.”

Elaine de Coligny, executive director of the homeless advocacy group EveryOne Home in Alameda County, said she appreciated Kaplan’s creativity and desire to find permanent housing for homeless people.

But de Coligny said it would be pricey to convert a cruise ship into long-term living space. Before embarking on plans to do so, officials should talk to homeless people about whether they would even want to live on a cruise ship, she said.

“I think we’re all feeling desperate about the desperation that we’re seeing of people who are living outdoors,” de Coligny said. “I appreciate the creativity, but I have lots of questions.”

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