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    Farewell to Arms? San Francisco Mulls Aircraft Carrier for the Homeless

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    Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos has improbably suggested using an old aircraft carrier, the USS Peleliu, as a temporary shelter for the city’s cripplingly large homeless population.

    Agnos stated that these are desperate times, as San Francisco is facing a public health crisis. According to the Homeless Point-in-Time Count for 2015, the homeless rate has increased sharply, closing in on 7000 people as of the beginning of the year, or about one percent of the city's population. Skyrocketing real estate prices and steep cuts in affordable housing along with low wages and few jobs have contributed to the upturn, according to Megan Hustings, director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

    The SF Homeless Project, launched in June, saw some 70 media organizations of various influence gather together to examine the problem and offer solutions. The San Francisco Chronicle devoted one week of coverage to the topic of homelessness, publishing letters from five former San Francisco mayors. Gavin Newsom, mayor from 2004 to 2011 and currently Lieutenant Governor of California, wrote, "If there were easy answers, then homelessness would have been solved years ago."

    "The USS Peleliu would be a game changer in the debate around homelessness," Agnos asserted. "Having them on a ship is a far better alternative than having them in unsanitary and unsafe conditions on the streets of San Francisco."

    The ship, currently decommissioned and moored in San Diego, served as a shelter for two weeks following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

    "People had a safe, clean, place to live with food and offices for people to use to service them. People were very happy. As a matter of fact, half of them wanted to go with the Navy after their trip ended," Agnos claimed.

    The idea, viewed by many as fanciful, has supporters and detractors. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos claims it should be seriously considered while homeless advocate Randy Shaw, with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, called it a waste of time.

    "It's a publicity thing," said Shaw, "and we are past that point to be talking about silly solutions."

    "Getting people onto the boat and off the boat…and things that can happen to people when they are on the boat. It just raises all the costs of everything," he observed.

    Agnos, by way of a reply, stated, "We are already spending a quarter of a billion dollars in this city and look what we got."

    Though the suggestion has not yet been formally shot down, there has been no indication of interest from the office of current SF mayor Ed Lee.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    homelessness, shelter, aircraft carrier, Gavin Newsom, San Francisco, United States
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