Kora-lea Vidal, once a running back for Canada’s silver-medal-winning national football team, says she never thought she’d escape domestic violence and become homeless.
Vidal, 36, often posts videos on TikTok, where she’s amassed nearly 55,000 followers. She covers tough content but also strives to “show there’s a beauty in the struggle.”
“It’s interesting because, when I fell into homelessness myself, as much as it’s a struggle just to meet your basic needs like food, shelter and showers, there’s kind of like a weird sense of freedom to it as well.”
She says her troubles help fuel her mission to end world hunger, starting in some rough areas of downtown Edmonton. In 2017, she started a humanitarian movement called Live Lifted dedicated to meeting that goal.
“You don’t know how many times people come up and thank me for doing humanitarian work and capturing beautiful moments with their loved ones who they actually lost to addiction.”
Vidal was born in Prince Rupert, B.C., known as the “City of Rainbows” on the northern West Coast. Vidal says she grew up a tough mountain girl who played rugby, and that she was raised by her dad, who died when she was seven.
She incorporated rainbow designs and colours into the branding of her social media and organization because they represent a “prayer for humanity” in the Bible, she says.
Vidal had a son when she was 25, but would continue to play football and breastfeed him at halftime. She retired from the game in order to focus putting her son through sports as he got older.
“But that’s when life took a turn for the worse,” she says.
She says she wound up in a toxic relationship and stumbled upon the drug scene, then began struggling with addiction for five years.
Today she frequents the streets, but in a different way. She distributes donations and interviews people who have no choice but to call sidewalks, alleys, parking lots and parks home.
“At the time, I didn’t actually know there was a need in Edmonton. I was thinking more so about Third World countries.”
Since beginning her work seven years ago, Vidal says she’s grown alarmed with how many more homeless people are in Edmonton today.
“It’s really given me a change in perspective, it’s opened my eyes, and it’s opened my heart,” she said.
“I actually stumbled into homelessness myself.”
Vidal says over the past few weeks she’s been without a home, and that this has been her reality “off and on” for over a year now. She says the streets can often be violent.
“A lot of people are so desperate that they will actually steal from other homeless people.”
She said not all are like that, but there are “bad apples.”
Vidal says there were times she had to stay in a tent, and couldn’t sleep because it was too cold.
She says fear of encampment fires didn’t prevent her, or the people she’s come across, from sheltering in tents.
“I honestly couldn’t believe that I went from taking care of people on the streets to being on the streets myself.”
Vidal says there are many ways someone can end up homeless.
“When I go out to do my outreach, I don’t just hand out food and clothing and just part ways, I make an effort to get to know the people that I’m serving.”
Vidal published a TikTok video in 2021 that got more than two million views after she came across a man sitting on a mattress behind a dumpster in an Edmonton parking lot during a frigid February night.
Questioning how he would survive, Vidal gave the stranger a winter jacket, pillow and a blanket, while her son recorded from the warmth and safety of their car.
“I load up my vehicle with all sort of donations, and some of the donations you don’t think someone will even want. But I tell you, every last little bit goes, and there are still people hungry and needing.”
Vidal says she has dipped into her own pocket to get people warm clothes.
“People are getting frostbite left, right and centre.”
Vidal says there’s still so much stigma around homelessness and addiction, but more people are needed to help.
“A lot of people take action around the holiday season, but this is ‘round-the-clock, yearlong work.
“Every day is a struggle out here.”