Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan recently suggested a plan to house up to 1,000 people from the city’s homeless population on a cruise ship, but officials with the Port of Oakland have disputed the proposal, calling it “untenable.”
During a meeting last week, Kaplan told members of the city council that she has already been in contact with cruise ship companies about the possibility of using their vessels for emergency housing for the city’s homeless.
“Maybe we can have a way to create a thousand housing units overnight,” Kaplan said of the program, adding that her plan will come at “no or low” cost because the city would not be purchasing the boat, but simply renting it, and requiring the residents to contribute towards the rental fee based on their level of income.
It may sound counterproductive to charge homeless people for a place to stay, and perhaps it is, but even homeless shelters require a small fee of their residents, and the housing will likely be far more affordable than most apartments or hotels.
“It could be a great way to house a lot of people quickly. Cruise ships have been used for emergency housing after natural disasters and for extra housing for things like Olympics,” Kaplan told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Kaplan suggested that the ship could work similarly to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, a large old ship that is now docked in the harbor, acting as a hotel for tourists and other visitors to the area.
Many members of the council are on board with the proposal, but it would need to be approved by the Port of Oakland and they seem reluctant to allow such a cruise ship to dock in their port for extended periods of time.
Mike Zampa, a spokesman for the port told the Chronicle that Oakland’s port was designed for cargo ships, not cruise ships.
“There isn’t the infrastructure to berth a cruise ship. Safety and security issues at the federally regulated maritime facilities would make residential uses untenable. How do you hook it up to utilities? You can’t have unauthorized personnel walking back and forth through marine terminals—those are federally regulated facilities, you need a badge to get in and out. There is also a lot of big and heavy equipment rumbling over those facilities all day long,” Zampa said.
Without support from the Port of Oakland, it is very likely that this plan will not go forward. Oakland has seen a huge spike in homelessness over the past two years, with the number of people on the street rising from 1,902 to 3,210.