Katherine McParland was executive director of A Way Home Kamloops, a non-profit agency devoted to working on ending youth homelessness. McParland herself was homeless for a period of time after aging out of the foster system. Photograph By KTW FILE

Katherine McParland was executive director of A Way Home Kamloops, a non-profit agency devoted to working on ending youth homelessness. McParland herself was homeless for a period of time after aging out of the foster system. Photograph By KTW FILE

Kamloops homeless advocate leaves defining legacy following death

The death of the executive director of A Way Home Kamloops is being mourned by the team at the agency

  • Dec. 7, 2020 2:06 p.m.

-Kamloops This Week

An overnight campout held annually outdoors to raise money in a bid to end youth homelessness will be much more difficult this year as it continues without the woman and driving force of the event — Katherine McParland.

McParland, who died on Friday, Dec. 4, is being remembered by her peers as a “vibrant, energetic and remarkable young woman” who overcame adversity and fiercely advocated for youth.

“Her defining legacy is that we are all much more aware of the harm that’s caused by youth homelessness and the extent of it in this country,” said Louise Richards, president of the board of directors for A Way Home Kamloops, for which McParland was executive director.

On Monday morning, A Way Home Kamloops held a press conference following the death of McParland, who was in her early 30s. The cause of her death has not been released.

A vigil is being held in her honour on Monday and Tuesday at Kamloops Alliance Church, located at 200 Leigh Road in North Kamloops, at the north end of Overlanders Bridge.

Richards cited heartbreak — which has been repeated through many social media posts — over the loss of McParland. She said the board was informed of McParland’s death on Saturday night and met all day Sunday, advising staff and youth in A Way Home Kamloops programs of the news.

Richards said the board has no information about the cause of McParland’s death.

“We cannot express the depth of the loss to the community and to the A Way Home Kamloops organization,” Richards said. “Katherine lived her work, created new pathways to end youth homelessness and inspired many others to join her in this critical work.”

Richards said McParland overcame challenges to complete a masters of social work and achieved much for her age, including starting the non-profit A Way Home Kamloops agency, co-founding the BC Coalition to End Youth Homelessness, sitting on a federal advisory committee dealing with youth homelessness and advocating for systemic change to improve conditions for youth in foster care.

McParland herself spent much of her teenage years in foster homes and, once she aged out of the system at 19, was homeless in Kamloops for a period of time.

She told her story often, talking about how she would sleep outdoors and couch surf at the homes of friends. In her presentations, McParland would describe foster care as the “superhighway to homelessness,” noting kids run away when foster homes do not meet their needs.

When she turned 19 and aged out of foster care, McParland joined foster siblings on the street and described being abused. McParland eventually secured housing and enrolled at Thompson Rivers University, obtaining her social work degree in 2016.

Richards said A Way Home Kamloops will continue McParland’s work. Asked about leadership succession planning, she said discussions are being held regarding an interim executive director. Letting staff, youth and the community know of McParland’s death were the first steps, she said.

“Katherine was a compassionate fighter, never shying away from the tough issues that impacted her community,” said Attorney General David Eby, who is also the minister responsible for housing. “She drew on her own lived experiences, as a child who grew up in the foster care system and experienced extensive periods of homelessness, in serving as a commissioner on BC Housing’s board. Her knowledge was invaluable in supporting our work to address homelessness while supporting people.”

Cassie Doyle, board chair of BC Housing, where McParland served on the board of commissioners, called McParland a “transformative force.”

“Katherine radiated positivity,” Doyle said. “She was courageous in giving a voice to those often systematically excluded and in pushing for the meaningful inclusion of youth with lived experience in decisions that affected them.”

An annual overnight campout to raise funds and provide community members with the experience of sleeping outside on the streets of Kamloops is planned for Dec. 11 and will proceed. Richards said Katherine was a woman of action and would have wanted the event to continue.

Richards said youth involved in A Way Home Kamloops programs are feeling a sense of loss, but community partners have come forward to offer counselling for both youth and staff, which will be utilized. She encouraged donations to A Way Home Kamloops, which is online at awayhomekamloops.com.

A two-day vigil is being held for McParland from noon to 8 p.m. on Monday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Kamloops Alliance Church. A Way Home Kamloops board vice-president Traci Anderson said the church will be adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols.

A friend of McParland’s is also organizing a walk in memory on Victoria Street on Dec. 16.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Government response to people experiencing homelessness in Kelowna

READ MORE: Specialist who treated rare disease among homeless wants doctors to be aware of signs

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Homeless

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Northern Health launches virtual primary care clinic

Northerners without a family physician or nurse practitioner will now have access to primary care

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Tinder, an online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. man granted paternity test to see if Tinder match-up led to a ‘beautiful baby’

The plaintiff is seeking contact with the married woman’s infant who he believes is his child

Most Read