Sean Cate
Sean Cate
December 25, 2023 ·  2 min read

Kenneth Capron Wants to Buy Old Cruise Ship and Turn It into Homeless Shelter

Kenneth A. Capron, a man from Portland, Maine, has been floating around quite a novel idea: converting cruise ships into floating homeless shelters. Capron, the founding director of the non-profit MemoryWorks, recently applied for a $250,000 grant through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in order to start researching the feasibility of this idea.

To start, Capron would like to convert one of the old luxury vessels which can house over 1,000 people. Mayor Ethan Strimling has even mentioned that there is an immediate need for at least 1,000 housing units in the city, so the idea of converting cruise ships that would be docked in Portland may not sound like a terrible idea. [1]

Although it may be hard to see, Capron’s vision is much bigger and could potentially address two pressing problems: lack of homeless shelters and lack of affordable housing. Better, they would try and help get individuals afloat again.

“We’re looking at four populations: the homeless population, the low-income population, the workforce population, and immigrant population who all need housing,” said Capron. [2] “They all need job skills training. We would offer that on board” along with medical help, too.

But Not Everyone Is on Board with Capron’s Idea

One of the main reasons he is facing push back has to do with the cost. According to Capron, it would cost between $5 and $10 million to convert a cruise ship that could house 800 passengers and 300 hundred crew members. [3] With those numbers, people are questioning where this money will come from.

“When the city’s homeless shelter proposal (at Nason’s Corner) got such a negative reaction, I thought I may as well try something else,” Capron said in a telephone interview with Portland Press Herald. [3] “I’m big into things that other people haven’t tried.”

Other housing alternatives including tiny houses, shipping container homes, and free tents have not proven to be successful enough. University of California architecture professor, R. Scott Mitchell, even goes so far as to say that moving people onto a boat “for the longer term… is almost like a prison.” [1]

While Mayor Strimling acknowledges that there are obvious hurdles that need to be accounted for and serious practical questions that need to be answered, he’s not completely opposed to the idea. In fact, he seems surprisingly ready to embrace the idea.

“I have no idea if it’s the craziest idea I’ve ever heard or the most brilliant idea I’ve ever heard, but what I like about it is that he’s coming up with creative ways to figure out how to build housing in the city of Portland,” said Strimling. [2] “There’s tons of hurdles that anyone would have to overcome to do this, but once again, I need housing. If people want to bring crazy, creative, far-fetched ideas to me, I’m happy to hear them out.”

Hopefully, we’ll find out soon enough whether or not Capron’s grant application gets approved. What’s promising is that people aren’t just starting to implement things without thinking. If approved, doing this feasibility research will really be able to find if this cruise ship conversion idea is actually a good one. At this point, it seems like it might be!