A cruise ship for homeless people?

Ovation of the Seas, a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean International, arriving at the port of Busan in South Korea yesterday. Cruise ships are generally for holidaymakers, but a group of New Zealand businessmen is looking at buying a 400-bed
Ovation of the Seas, a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean International, arriving at the port of Busan in South Korea yesterday. Cruise ships are generally for holidaymakers, but a group of New Zealand businessmen is looking at buying a 400-bed cruise liner to house homeless families.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Businessmen in New Zealand moot the idea as a way to provide temporary shelter

AUCKLAND • Using a cruise ship to provide a roof for the homeless might not be a long-term solution to the problem of homelessness, but a group of New Zealand businessmen believes it could help ease the pressure while a longer-term strategy is put in place.

The businessmen are exploring the possibility of purchasing a 400-bed Italian cruise liner and docking it in one of Auckland's harbours to provide a temporary shelter for the city's homeless, reported The Guardian.

Estimates say hundreds of people sleep in the rough in Auckland every night, with dozens of working families also bedding down in cars, garages and marae (Maori meeting houses).

"Living on a cruise ship is not a long-term solution, but things are so bad for so many families now that it could help ease the pressure for two or three years while longer-term strategies are put in place," said Christchurch businessman Garry House.

He said the cost of purchasing the cruise liner and transporting it to New Zealand would work out to at least NZ$5 million (S$4.8 million). He said that, once bought, the vessel would take just a month to reach New Zealand from Europe.

EASING THE PRESSURE

Living on a cruise ship is not a long-term solution, but things are so bad for so many families now that it could help ease the pressure for two to three years while longer-term strategies are put in place.

CHRISTCHURCH BUSINESSMAN GARRY HOUSE.

However, while the idea was lauded as "creative thinking" by Major Campbell Roberts, the national director of social policy for The Salvation Army in New Zealand, he was quick to point out that a cruise ship was not suitable accommodation for a population with high needs.

"A cruise ship is fine for a month, but to live on it for any longer would be a strange experience for the inhabitants, and it would have no sense of normality about it. I am fully supportive of a creative solution to this problem, but I don't think a cruise ship is the answer," he said.

"What New Zealand needs to face up to is finding long-term, permanent solutions."

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett expressed concern about the potential spread of disease on a cruise ship, although Mr House said the risk would be no greater than in an apartment complex or a hotel, reported The Guardian.

"People would not be on the ship 24/7. They'd be getting off, going to work, living normal lives. But at least, at night, they could return to a bed and not a park in the middle of winter," argued Mr House.

The novel idea was welcomed by Mr Hurimoana Dennis, chairman of Te Puea Marae, which houses people in emergency accommodation.

"It is obviously a short-term solution, but I support any proposal that will get people out of cars and into something warmer and bigger," he said.

Auckland's housing market is one of the most expensive in the world, with properties costing more than NZ$940,000 on average.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2016, with the headline 'A cruise ship for homeless people?'. Print Edition | Subscribe