The Doctor Is In

in Poetry

Dr. Wes

A Homeless Cruise


I hate the thought of staying in a shelter. In fact in all my time being homeless I never once stayed in one.

Gym locker rooms, libraries, marches, square dances, mosh pits, sports stadiums, crowded buses, crowded sidewalks, packed subways, shelters, they're all the same. Places where there are too many people.

If I wanted to sleep six inches on each side from two strangers, I would be a lot friendlier than I am. People who don't know me think I'm shy, because I don't talk much around them. What they don't know is that I'm just keeping quiet to avoid encouraging them to talk to me. Why would I want total strangers to talk at me?

I'd rather sleep in a patch of nettles or poison ivy or on rocks than have to talk sports with some Biff on the next mat.

You had your whining homeless advocates complaining that housing people in jails is callous and cruel.
But today the subject of shelters forces itself on me. I just can't ignore the fact that New York city officials just visited the Bahamas to check out the possibility of buying one or more cruise ships, TO USE AS HOMELESS SHELTERS.

It seems a New York State Supreme Court Justice over there is actually threatening to jail city officials if they can't shelter homeless families within 24 for hours after they apply. So immediately they got the idea to buy one-way tickets to the Bahamas.

No, that's not true. First they tried other things, like putting the families in gyms and defunct hotels and even jail. Some of these ideas worked. Others drew criticism. You had your NIMBYs. You had your whining homeless advocates complaining that housing people in jails is callous and cruel. City governments hate criticism. So hey, let's check out putting them on cruise ships, they thought. Then they thought, oh, there are defunct cruise ships in the Bahamas, let's go look at them. So they did.

Now they actually have some homeless advocates ripping them for this idea. No, I don't know why.

I've got to break ranks here. I think sheltering homeless families on defunct cruise ships is a terrific idea. I would especially like to see it done here in Seattle. I would even consider becoming homeless again if I were sure of getting a suite for myself and Anitra "On Whose Kitchen Floor I Have Sometimes Slept" Freeman, whom I would pass off as family for the purpose.

Think about it. People love houseboats. Houseboats are an integral part of Seattle's tradition. Why should just Tom Hanks get to live on a houseboat? Why shouldn't homeless people live on houseboats, too? OK, so you can't have a separate houseboat for every homeless person or family. So you do the next best thing. You spend a measly $20 million (that's around what the cheaper of the ships in the Bahamas would cost) for a cruise ship. You spend another few million to rip out stuff you won't let the homeless have, like the bar and the disco and the pool. Then you've still got a hell of a houseboat! I would be proud to live on one of these.

The ships examined hold thousands of people. Of course some space would have to be reserved for the crew and the all important activities director. Even without the bar people are going to need activities. It would be cruel to deny people shuffleboard under the circumstances.

Even when you add in janitorial and other maintenance I'll bet the whole thing could be done for a mere thirty million down plus a few million a year. Where can you find a housing bargain for that? And no NIMBYs except at the end closest to shore!

Maybe we could snag some old surplus battleships or submarines to use for shelters, too. The Navy just uses the old ones for target practice anyway. I bet Seattle could get a bunch for no more than what we would spend for one lousy skyscraper. And they already have beds in them. Imagine the savings that represents.

All in all, a sound, realistic, proposal. Let's get started!

© Dr. Wes Browning:
2129 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247

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