A tech worker once publicly berated for his negative comments on the homeless population is floating an idea to put people living without shelter on a cruise ship.
In an interview with The Guardian, Greg Gopman, a serial entrepreneur and a former Twitter contractor, revealed plans to build a homeless shelter in the San Francisco Bay aboard a 13-deck vessel that was retrofitted for use in the Mediterranean refugee crisis. The project would be funded in part by listing select cabins on the ship on Airbnb, The Guardian reported.
The proposal comes at a time when San Francisco is in desperate need of an affordable housing solution. An estimated 7,499 people live without permanent shelter in the city. San Francisco has one of the widest wealth gaps and largest homeless populations in the country.
The cruise ship would allow a homeless person to stay up to two years. Job training and personal development programming would also be offered.
Gopman told The Guardian he hopes the education component will help lift people out of low income brackets. “Someone who’s homeless can be a computer developer at Google,” he said.
The project has drawn mixed reactions from local organisations that work with the city’s homeless population, largely because of the past controversies surrounding Gopman.
In 2013, Gopman, who was working at the fourth startup he founded, wrote a Facebook post slamming the “homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash” he came across in downtown San Francisco. “The degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you,” he wrote. “There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us. It’s a burden and a liability.”
The post went viral. Industry blogs and social media condemned his insensitive remarks. In 2013, Gopman was fired from his contract job at Twitter when a TechCrunch article resurfaced his inflammatory comments from the past.
Since then, Gopman has sought to educate himself on issues around homelessness and become involved in causes that help those individuals get back on their feet. In 2015, he founded an advocacy group called A Better San Francisco, which champions housing solutions for the poor.
The cruise ship idea was inspired in part by an op-ed by former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos published in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year. Agnos, who led the city from 1988 to 1992, recommended creating a temporary homeless shelter aboard a retired Navy ship.
Gopman and Agnos are working together to get the Mayor’s Office to consider the proposal.
The cruise ship is currently on the market for $US13 million. The costs of renovating the vessel for more permanent housing could add millions more to the listing price.
Gopman hopes to see the proposal through, despite his past.
“It’s very possible [that] for this thing to happen, people would have reservations about me being involved,” he told The Guardian.