There is something so satisfying about life coming full circle, and very few understand what that phrase means as deeply as Lutherwood Housing Support Coach Leslie Ciampaglia.
In her own words, Leslie came from a traumatized home, spent time in the Children’s Aid Society and became a very young mother of two children who she had to put up for adoption.
“I was homeless and an addict on the streets of Oshawa for almost eight years,” Leslie reflected somberly. She wanted help, but Oshawa didn’t have the same range of services that Waterloo Region has. As Leslie put it, “they didn’t have Lutherwood”.
What finally made her turn a corner was something a counsellor said to her during an addiction treatment session.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Twenty years down the road, when your children are grown and want to find out what has become of you, do you want them to see how well you’ve done for yourself, or do you want them to visit your gravestone?’ That woke something up within me and I never looked back.”
Leslie went back to school and took the Assaulted Women and Children Advocacy Counsellor and Social Service Worker programs at George Brown College. There she learned how to work with women and children who have struggled through trauma and addiction.
In May 2019, Leslie found an employer that saw her life experiences as an advantage to helping others.
“Lutherwood values my experience and made a role for me specifically because of it, which is incredible to me,” Leslie said. “I feel so privileged and proud to work here. It feels like home to me now. I love the people I work with and there are so many opportunities for growth.”
Leslie says she has found her calling in helping others. In her current role, she works one-to-one with clients, helping to get them through the same struggles she once faced and has since overcome.
“I don’t have all the answers because everyone experiences homelessness and their traumas differently, but I do understand that feeling of being alone, that feeling like you can’t ever get out of it,” Leslie said. “So, I am here to walk beside people and make sure they feel supported, and to show them first-hand that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Since moving to Kitchener, Leslie is in a healthy relationship and even has a beautiful four-year-old daughter. “Now I have a second chance at being a mother,” Leslie beamed. “I want to show people that it’s never too late to turn things around.”
If you need assistance with your housing situation, visit a Lutherwood Housing office and a Housing Advisor will be happy to assist you.
"I have used Lutherwood for years to help me find full-time staff and summer students. They are so supportive; helped me navigate government funding grants and find great staff."