Rebecca Kaplan, a City Councilwoman in Oakland, California, wants to use cruise ships to help solve the cities housing crisis. Reports state that Kaplan was reading some old articles about how cruise ships have been used as makeshift storm shelters during hurricane season in California when she got the initial idea. Since Oakland doesn’t see too many superstorms these days, Kaplan figured this could also help solve one of the cities largest problems.
California itself has a major homeless problem. Too many individuals are without shelter and take to the streets to sleep. Oakland alone has over 4,000 individuals currently experiencing homelessness, which is a 47% increase compared to the population of the city two years prior. Kaplan considers the current housing crisis in Oakland a public health emergency as well as a humanitarian emergency. The city has limited access to resources such as running water, toilets, shelter beds, etc. and while multiple solutions have been discussed throughout the past few years, none have actually gone into effect.
“It is a human catastrophe, it has to be all hands on deck. We say this is an emergency, so, I thought, well, we have a natural-disaster level of crisis. Now I am in dialogue with people who can actually do something.” Kaplan said, adding that the crisis should be approached like any other disaster.
Now, after Kaplan discussed the cruise ship idea with her fellow council members, the wheels are actually beginning to turn. Kaplan said that she’s already been contacted by a few cruise ship companies for the project, and her and her team plan on making an official proposal by early next year. One ship alone can add up to 1,000 on board beds for individuals without a home, the results would be astounding if put into motion.
The idea hasn’t been as widely well received as one might assume, because the idea isn’t entirely new. After Hurricane Katrina, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush attempted to deliver cruise ship housing to victims whose homes were destroyed by the storm. He made a $236 million deal with Carnival Cruise Lines, only to have a majority of evacuees’s opt for on land shelter housing, leaving the cruise ships practically empty for weeks. Bush received major backlash after this, as individuals stated that what was spent on acquiring the ships could have been used to rebuild actual homes.
Kaplan, however, has taken this criticism with a grain of salt, and claims she still plans on doing anything in her power to help solve this crisis, and she plans to do it with cruise ships. Plans in the past to help clear the streets and offer shelter to those without have greatly backfired, leaving multiple members of the community tired of false promises. Additionally, the city isn’t showing a lot of compassion when it comes to these people who have practically nothing. Police break up tent communities leaving individuals with literally no where to go, major corporate buildings install massive statues or trees by their offices so homeless individuals don’t sleep there, and overall, the only policies put into place are meant to benefit the people of the community, not the actual ones without a place to sleep.
The cruise ship plan is just one part of Kaplan’s three-part plan to solve the housing crisis; which also includes an expansion of access to areas in Oakland where RV’s and other mobile home vehicles can be parked for homeless individuals to stay in, complete with running water and toilets. Additionally, Kaplan is looking into vacant buildings throughout the city that has space to create emergency housing. The main goal is to have enough indoor space, regardless if it’s on a ship or a trailer, to give these people a warm place to sleep, and a shower to get clean.
“I am not saying it is a done deal. What I am saying is we need to put a lot more options on the table. If there’s a chance we can make it work, we should try,” Kaplan said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.