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Mothballed Aircraft Carrier Floated As Temporary Housing For Homeless

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos is pitching an out-of-the-box solution to the city's homeless crisis that would get people in need off the streets and onto a ship.

It sounds like a wild idea, but Agnos says these are desperate times.

He wants to turn an old aircraft carrier -- the USS Peleliu -- into temporary housing for the homeless.

Agnos is floating the mothballed naval carrier as the latest solution to San Francisco's homeless shelter crisis.

• ALSO READ: Our San Francisco Homeless Project Reports

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

Believe it or not, the USS Peleliu has been used as a homeless shelter before.

"We did it for a short term in the 1989 after the Loma Prieta earthquake. We used it for approximately two weeks," said Agnos. "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."

Still, parking even a small aircraft carrier at a local pier and using it as a homeless shelter seems a desperate move.

"I can tell you in my district in the Mission, it's ground zero. We have dozens of people living on the streets and we don't have enough places to put them," said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos. "If it takes a decommissioned aircraft carrier to do that, I think we should consider it.

Homeless advocate Randy Shaw with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic countered that the idea is a waste of time.

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

Agnos argued that it offers a better solution with more space to house those in need.

"The thought that trying to do a navigation center that houses 25 to 30 people every six months in various neighborhoods is simply taking too much time for a crisis of these proportions," said Agnos.

The proposal brought other questions from city officials.

"The question for me is what's the city's cost?" asked San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin. "Can it work?"

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

Even with his concerns, Supervisor Peskin wouldn't discount the concept entirely.

"But it is an absolutely intriguing idea and I think we should take it seriously," said Peskin.

When asked who would pay for the USS Peleliu, Agnos said, "We are already spending a quarter of a billion dollars in this city and look what we got."

So far, the proposal has not gotten a response from Mayor Ed Lee's office.

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