A Portland man wants the city to seriously consider his idea for converting a cruise ship into a floating shelter for homeless people.

Kenneth A. Capron, founding director of the nonprofit MemoryWorks, has invited potential stakeholders to a meeting on Tuesday afternoon at Portland City Hall to discuss his vision for acquiring a used cruise ship that could serve as a homeless shelter, as well as affordable housing and immigrant housing. The ship might also have space for social service providers.

“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 Sunday night. “I’m big into things that other people haven’t tried.”

Capron’s plan calls for applying for a grant later this month to conduct a feasibility study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. According to Capron, his letter of intent, which was sent to the foundation about two months ago, garnered a positive reaction. The foundation bills itself as the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated to health causes.

The feasibility study, if funded, would examine the possibility of acquiring a used cruise ship that could be repurposed to address Portland’s housing needs.

A used cruise ship with a capacity for 800 passengers and 300 crew would cost from $5 million to $100 million, Capron said.


“This will be the only presentation prior to submitting the grant in October. I am looking for all feedback on any aspect so I can anticipate concerns of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,” Capron said in an email invitation to stakeholders.

Capron said the ship would likely be docked permanently on Portland’s waterfront. The city has not issued a formal response to his proposal yet, but Mayor Ethan Strimling said he and some City Council members are aware of it.

Strimling declined to comment further Sunday night, adding that he wants to make sure Capron is given an opportunity to present his proposal.

Capron said he is serious about the project, which he is calling Hope Harbor.

Tuesday’s meeting will be from 1 to 3 p.m. in Room 24 of Portland City Hall.


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