Two individuals living on this floating structure anchored off Lillian Hoffar Park in North Saanich are said to now be living on land, after Beacon Community Services and RCMP officers found them in “very ill health” according to a District of North Saanich spokesperson. (Photo courtesy of Penny Williamson)

Two individuals living on this floating structure anchored off Lillian Hoffar Park in North Saanich are said to now be living on land, after Beacon Community Services and RCMP officers found them in “very ill health” according to a District of North Saanich spokesperson. (Photo courtesy of Penny Williamson)

Liveaboard couple in ‘very ill health’ removed from floating home in North Saanich

RCMP, Beacon Community Services move couple to land-based accommodations

Two people who have lived for years on a floating structure consisting of several boats anchored off North Saanich’s Lillian Hoffar Park are now said to be living on land after concerns about their health prompted their removal in late 2021.

North Saanich director of planning Brian Green said in emailed statement that Beacon Community Services and Sidney-North Saanich RCMP found the two individuals in “very ill health” during a pre-Christmas visit.

“They were taken off the vessels for their own safety,” Green said. Beacon Community Services found them temporary lodging at the Sidney Travelodge, then they were transferred into the care of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, who Green believes has found them permanent accommodation.

In a May 2021 interview with Black Press Media, Diana Junus said she and husband Stewart Jackson had been living on the floating structure about five years, and that Jackson had been in and out of hospital for various medical issues, including sepsis and a leg amputation.

The removal of the couple from the floating home concludes a complicated story that raised questions about jurisdictional responsibilities, derelict and abandoned boats, housing and environment.

Residents living near and far from the structure, including family members of Lillian Hoffar, have long raised concerns about their impact on the aesthetics and ecology of the park and have called on North Saanich to address the issue. The municipality owns the park and holds a foreshore lease for the adjacent waters. Officials have also warned about harmful environmental effects from derelict and abandoned boats.

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Since early 2020, the municipality has been taking what Green called “a measured and reasonable approach” to the presence of the boats and live-aboards. That has included engaging with social support services to assist the residents with finding alternate housing.

Signage went up in November 2020 stating that boats or dinghies moored in the harbour are considered trespassing and will be removed a the owner’s expense. An eviction notice for the floating structure was issued in April 2021 by the municipality.

“We have tried our best to be sensitive to the needs of the people living on the boats (and) structures in the park and have tried to assist them with alternative accommodations,” Green said. “We have been working with Beacon Services and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction in this regard to try and find a solution, given their circumstances.”

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Junus expressed a willingness to move the boats last May, but said Jackson not recovering from medical issues was an obstacle. She also expressed concerns about not finding housing, if forced to move.

“If I lose this, I’m out of a house. I don’t have anywhere to go,” she said.

Jackson, for his part, has said in a past interview that he had moved to North Saanich from Esquimalt. “I was in a stinky little apartment then, and we just decided that we have had enough,” he said. “So we moved out to the boats, and we have been there ever since.”

Jackson said at the time that he could afford to live on land, if necessary, but does not really want to do so and feels he is breaking no laws. “It’s totally legal,” he said. “I’m far enough away at a high tide to be under federal jurisdiction.”

Jackson at the time also expressed surprised that area residents are concerned about his boats, saying he had not received any complaints. He also challenged the impression that the boats are abandoned and that he was squatting. “It a 41-foot-long boat I live on,” he said. “It’s bigger than some apartments in town.”

Recent developments, however, appeared to have caused a change of course.

Green said the next step would be for the couple to remove their belongings, adding the district and Dead Boats Society continue to look into removal of the boats.

Black Press Media has reached out to the RCMP and Beacon Community Services for comment.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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