[Hpn] Re: Floating "Hostels" for those called Homeless

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Fri, 03 Jan 2003 11:34:10 -0800

We would all do well to do our homework before weighing in on the idea of
housing homeless folks on de-commissioned warships. For one thing, the US
Navy enjoys a variance from OSHA so that they can paint their ships with
lead-based paint and insulate hot pipes with asbestos.

Then there's the issue that these vessels are designed to be operated by
able-bodied sailors -- anything resembling a stairway to move between decks
isn't often found, the general rule is ladders. Twenty years ago, when I
worked for a defense contractor installing weapons systems on commissioned
Spruance-class destroyers, any shipyard worker caught below decks without a
hardhat got sent home for the day, and for good reason. Without splitting
hairs further, it's probably safe to for us to assume such accommodations
won't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As for the safety of Navy personnel, they're considered military property
and as such are expendable. If we proposed to house prison inmates in such
conditions, they would have a very win-able lawsuit. But then, homeless
people don't enjoy as many rights as convicted felons do here in the U.S.

The other idea, using cruise ships, sounds like it would be tolerable. They
have all kinds of amenities for disabled folks like elevators and escalators
(not top mention hot tubs and the like). But my guess is that they cost a
small fortune in expenses for daily operation, even if they weren't putting
out to sea. It would be interesting to see if someone has done a cost
analysis that projects a per bed cost for housing homeless people on unused
cruise ships. And then there's those pesky viral infections that so many
people are getting on cruise ships these days. I can only imagine how TB
might spread in such a cloistered environment.

Again, what's not being discussed is WHY it is so hard to move policymakers
to the belief that homeless people deserve the same rights, and certainly
the same housing, as anyone else. What these stories DO serve to do is
create a smokescreen to blot out any discussion of why we have so many
homeless people in the first place, but when you start asking hard questions
like that the newspapers are quick to call you a commie.

Take it from me...



chance martin, Project Coordinator
A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
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