U of C project raises awareness about homelessness



robin kuniski/for metro calgary


Laura Fiorilla is part of the Voices for the Voiceless; Homes for Homeless project which had a gallery showing of her life and others at the U of C.

It took 25 years and a Downtown Community Initiative for Laura Fiorilla to find her voice again.

Booze and drugs made Fiorilla lose her children and put her in a motorized scooter. She was breathing from an oxygen tank at night so she could sleep.

It was 27 years ago that she left Calgary — her hometown — for Toronto, looking for a fresh start.

Instead, she found the beginning of a decades–long struggle with the bottle and on-again, off-again homelessness before returning to Calgary to re-connect with her children.

It’s a story she told yesterday at the University of Calgary’s Voices for the Voiceless; Homes for the Homeless.

“I was on the streets for nine months, this time around, but when you’re out there, it feels like nine years,” Fiorilla said, tears streaming down her cheek.

”You’re freezing, the rain’s coming down, you only have a poncho kind of thing to keep the rain off, but it still soaks the whole machine, destroying it and the breathing machine.”

The U of C project helped Fiorilla, who has been sober now for 15 years, find herself.

“I’m so thankful for this project,” she said. “The one question we all asked when we started this was how can we reach, not only Calgarians, but the whole of everyone so they can all be educated by our stories.”

And that was the main goal of the project, said its principal investigator Christine Walsh.

“We actually don’t want to see or hear them,” Walsh explains.

“It’s critically important to get this out there because these women are amongst the most marginalized and disenfranchised members of society.”