California city considers using cruise ship to house homeless

Oakland city officials are considering allowing the homeless to live on a cruise ship / Source: (CBS)

OAKLAND, Ca. (CBS SF/AP) — Oakland City Council president Rebecca Kaplan has proposed bringing in a cruise ship to help ease the city’s growing housing and homelessness crisis.

But her proposal received a lukewarm reception on Wednesday from officials at the busy Port of Oakland.

“We respect President Kaplan’s desire to address homelessness,” port officials said in a prepared statement. “But Port of Oakland docks are designed to work cargo ships. There isn’t the infrastructure to berth a cruise ship. Safety and security issues at our federally regulated maritime facilities would make residential uses untenable.”

Kaplan told a council meeting Tuesday that she has been contacted by cruise ship companies about providing a ship for emergency housing.

She said she plans to bring a proposal to the council in January that will be at “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.

“Maybe we can have a way to create a 1,000 housing units overnight,” Kaplan told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Homelessness has spiked in Oakland in the past two years with an increase in the number of unsheltered people from 1,902 to 3,210 people.

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

She said the cruise ship companies are reaching out to the Port of Oakland about what options exist to park a ship at the port. The Port of Oakland would have to approve a contract before a ship could use the port.

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 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.”

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.