Port Commission Candidate Wants Cruise Ship Homeless Shelter in Seattle

Dark horse candidate Ray Armitstead thinks he has a solution to Seattle's homeless crisis.

By Michael Rietmulder

Eastern Caribbean Sea - February 8, 2010:  A luxury cruise ship anchors in the water as passengers are taken by ferry to the local tropical island for a day of sun and fun.

July 31, 2017

As the Puget Sound region struggles to deal with its homeless crisis, local officials and community members are responding in various ways. Last month Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced he was opening $30 million the city spends on homeless services up for rebidding. In Everett, a business owner recently made headlines with a very public and controversial critique of the city’s efforts to curb homelessness and crime.

But one of the more unorthodox moves is being proposed by a little known Port Commission candidate.

“The search is over,” proclaims Ray Armitstead in an open letter to “all candidates, all positions.”

The retired master mariner, who is vying for Port of Seattle Commission’s Position 4, wants to buy an old cruise ship and use it to house the city’s homeless. In fact, Armitstead already has his eye on a 40,000-ton vessel built in 1981, “when ships were made with large rooms for comfort.” Under his plan outlined in the letter (which was posted by neighborhood group Safe Seattle) the crew quarters would be occupied by homeless people while passenger rooms would be rented out for $600-$900 a month. An unspecified number of passenger rooms would be reserved as hotel rooms.

It’s unclear how many people the 625-foot ship could accommodate, but it has previously held a crew of about 540. Armitstead envisions mooring the ship somewhere along the waterfront, a la the Queen Mary in San Diego.

Armitstead estimates it would cost around $20 million to get the Oasis of Seattle—as he calls his cruise ship shelter—operating, but that probably doesn’t include fully stocking the minibars. In the letter, Armitstead proposes using city funds or hopes a benevolent 1 percenter might pony up the cash.

It sounds a little unusual, but Armitstead isn’t the first to suggest harboring the homeless on a ship. Earlier this year San Francisco tech entrepreneur Greg Gopman proposed a similar idea after the city’s former mayor Art Agnos pitched converting a decommissioned aircraft carrier into a shelter.

But if Armitstead’s outside-the-box proposal were to go anywhere, it would need to gain more steam than his campaign. According to the Seattle Times‘ candidate roundup, Armitstead has raised no money and received no formal endorsements.

“He responded to questions by recalling stories from when he ran a hotel decades ago,” per the paper.


Spaces Belltown Reception

IWG Flexible Workspaces Foster Transformational Change | Sponsored

IWG’s hybrid model boost productivity, profits and employee happiness.

IWG is the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace, with 3,500 locations operating under brands including Regus, Spaces and HQ across 120 countries. Its network is unrivaled in its reach, which extends beyond central business districts to suburban and rural areas, where employees have an unparalleled choice of locations in the heart of their local…


Sponsored | How COVID-19 Changed College Admissions

What Every High School Parent and Student Should Know

After last year’s unusual college admission season, parents of high school juniors and seniors have more questions than ever about applying to college during COVID-19. The global pandemic has created a new landscape for students currently applying for college, says college counselor Kelly Herrington.  “When people ask me how COVID-19 has changed college admissions, I…


All Eyes on Seattle

A note from the editor

The new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.


News Round Up: The West Seattle Bridge is Falling Down, Falling Down…

Plus: Some farmers markets are reopening and Pride weekend is going virtual

The West Seattle Bridge is closed until further notice.


How Climate Activist Jamie Margolin Plans to Save the World (and Graduate High School)

"There’s no pride in doing the bare minimum, and there’s no pride in standing in the center when there are two clear sides: life or death.”

Climate activist Jamie Margolin in the Naneum Ridge State Forest, at the site of the Snag Canyon Fire. Started by lightning in 2014, the wildfire burned approximately 12,660 acres and 22 structures, including homes and cabins


Meet a Local Activist Fighting for Justice for Sexual Assault Survivors

Leah Griffin helps guide the creation of laws that intimately impact rape survivors in Washington state

This article appears in print in the March 2020 issue. Click here to subscribe.Sitting in the window of a café on a rainy Saturday, wearing a sweater with rainbow trim, Leah Griffin greets me with a hug and a smile. It’s a day off from her full-time job as a school librarian in North Seattle, but Griffin has…