It was the fall of 2002, early in Michael Bloomberg’s first term as mayor of New York. The billionaire-turned-politician had been struggling all year to address a growing crisis: The Big Apple’s homeless population was skyrocketing to record levels, and the city had run out of shelter space. And so Bloomberg’s administration came up with an idea: House homeless families on decommissioned cruise ships. “It was an absurd plan.” “It was an absurd plan,” says Patrick Markee, who was a senior policy analyst at the Coalition for the Homeless at the time.

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