A Victoria woman moving through homeless shelters fears that soon she will lose one of her last possessions, her truck, after collecting piles of parking tickets.
Willi Boepple has worked in farming and animal herding for most of her life with a penchant for breeding and raising dairy goats.
For more than three decades she ran a herd of award-winning goats she came to know as family, and specialized in researching how micro-nutrients and minerals could affect their health.
“We had an incredibly strong bond. I loved them and they loved me,” Boepple said. “When I lost them it broke my heart.”
After spending more than a decade farming on a property on the Saanich Peninsula, Boepple was evicted and forced to give up her herd. Close friends helped disperse the 47 goats throughout the area, but Boepple herself couldn’t find a home.
Since March she’s been shuffling between several downtown Victoria shelters, and parking her car near where she was staying. While Boepple tried to be diligent in moving her vehicle, it wasn’t always possible.
“I’m almost 60 years old. I have three titanium joints and declining health, I just couldn’t move it all the time,” she said.
Soon she saw more and more parking tickets, believing she has more than 24 waiting to be paid.
“Now I’m on the tow list,” she said, adding that she’s not the only person facing these problems. One former bunk mate she had at the Sandy Merriman Women’s Shelter was educated as a registered nurse, but now lives in her car after facing more than $800 in parking tickets.
This prompted Boepple to write to the City and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps asking for more changes. She suggested that the city offer specific parking spots outside of homeless shelters for the few patrons with vehicles, or otherwise develop some kind of parking pass system to ensure people aren’t ticketed. Boepple never heard back from the city.
In a comment to Black Press, Helps said city staff are trained to use discretion in individual situations.
“It is Canada in the 21st century. No one should be needing to sleep in a car,” she said. “If people are experiencing ticketing as an issue they can come into city hall and talk with our staff who can look at options on a case by case basis.”
For Boepple, this was not a satisfying answer.
“I guess they could cancel my parking tickets and pat me on the head, but that’s not what I want,” she said. “I want change so that the few of us who are homeless and have a car don’t have to give them up.”
The Victoria Cool Aid Society, which runs both the Sandy Merriman House and Rock Bay Landing, where Boepple has been staying, said that they’re sorry to learn about the situation.
“Our hearts go out for her and others who come to us after losing the lives they had, including their homes, possessions, and communities, to poverty and other circumstances,” said Don McTavish, director of housing in a statement.
In the meantime, Boepple said she’ll try to keep her truck, and hopes to find a position working on a farm if possible. She’ll also continue to try to share her message.
“I want society to understand that not all homeless people are criminals,” she said. “I want them to know who we are. I was a food producer, a journalist in livestock magazines and a licensed livestock judge. There’s something wrong with this.”
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