Calgary

Few options for homeless women in Calgary: study

Nearly 1,000 women in Calgary are homeless, according to a new study released by the University of Calgary on the same day as a rally at city hall.

Nearly 1,000 women in Calgary are homeless, according to a new study released by the University of Calgary on the same day as a rally at city hall.

More than 200 people gathered in front of city hall Thursday to bring attention to how high rents and a lack of affordable housing are forcing more women to stay in abusive relationships for shelter, or to live on the street.

Some women who used to be homeless shared their stories with the crowd.

"I got to the point where I was totally suicidal, didn't know what to do," said Laura Fiorilla, 57, who spent nine months living on Calgary's streets two years ago.

"You're constantly moving around to pick bottles, go panning, go get food here, go get resources here and there," said Dawn Landry.

The rally was organized by Christine Walsh, a professor of social work who interviewed homeless women across the city. She found the women did not feel safe in co-ed shelters where they had a higher chance of being harassed or assaulted.

Walsh said the women want female-only shelters and more affordable housing so they don't have to live on the street.

You're constantly moving around to pick bottles, go panning, go get food here, go get resources here and there.

"Women are at risk for violence when they occupy the streets, particularly if they're in the streets in the daylight, and particularly in the evening hours, and for homeless women, that's their life," Walsh said.

Calgary police recently warned women to avoid walking alone at night because of an apparently random attack on Arcelie Laoagan, a 41-year-old woman on her way home from a night shift. But that's difficult for women who have nowhere else to go, said Walsh.

"You kinda gotta bite the bullet and push that lump down in your throat sometimes. Walk faster if you see somebody coming. You never know who to trust and who not to trust," said Beverly Cousins.

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