Philip Hathaway's ingenious houseboat.

Photo Credit: Philip Hathaway | CBC

Homeless? Here’s How To DIY A Houseboat!

"The Blue Dream" isn't all it's cracked up to be

No, this is not the new #vanlife

If innovation and hard work were all it took to get rich, then Philip Hathaway would be a millionaire.

The 53-year-old has been a homeowner twice. But life had other plans for those houses, and he’s spent eight years living in cars, tents, and homemade structures.

Now, after having his car impounded seven times last year, he and his wife decided it was time to head off land entirely.

“I said, you know what? They don’t want us in the parks, we have nowhere to live… I’m building a boat,” Hathaway told CBC.

He built the base by bolting together old highway signs. He put the base on top of blue recycling bins filled with plastic bottles to keep it afloat. Then he built a plywood A-frame hut on the base.

Hathaway built “The Blue Dream” in Goldstream Park near Victoria. Then he used a five-horsepower engine to move it up the east coast of VanIsle to its current spot in Campbell River.

The boat is an enviable DIY marvel.

What’s not enviable? The circumstances that drove Hathaway to get this handy.

This is not the new #vanlife.

Hathaway says he first applied for emergency housing in April of 2020. Months later, he was told the paperwork had been lost and he’d have to file again.

From there, he and his wife been waiting on a call to tell them there’s shelter space. It still hasn’t come.

“I built this boat out of survival,” Hathaway said to CBC. “No man and wife should have to do that to find a safe place to live.”

The couple’s situation has gotten more complicated. Hathaway’s wife Sonja, 39, is now pregnant.

Time is ticking for them to secure a safe space before their baby arrives.

Hathaway is far from the only one facing this issue. Affordable housing is extremely limited on the island.

BC Housing said their records for Hathaway’s application begin in March 2022. They think his earlier request might have been directly to a Victoria non-profit housing provider.

“It is difficult for us to predict the length of time Mr. Hathaway and his wife will wait for housing,” they say.

Worst case scenario, Hathaway intends to extend their boat to make room for the new arrival.

But he wants to draw more attention to just how many folks are living with the same stresses. Our system is simply not built for everyone.

“There need to be solutions people can utilize so they can actually have some semblance of a life.”

As romantic as boat life may sound, they’re a 2.5 hour walk from town and any chance of regular work.

There are solutions to the housing crisis. But they take time to put into action. And there doesn’t seem to be much political will.

But we have to start working on them now. No one should have to live on plastic bottles.