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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

OPINION SIG
EDITORIAL: High job numbers seem overly rosy

Hard to believe there’s so much more employment in hardest hit sectors

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Victoria’s economy is expected to bounce back fairly easily, according to a new report from BMO Capital Markets released April 15. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria in good position to bounce back post-pandemic, says BMO

City’s smaller size, lower COVID-19 caseload and diverse industry base bode well

Three new flight exposures have been reported departing from or arriving at the Victoria International Airport between April 7 and 11. (File photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Three flight exposures reported at Victoria International Airport

One flight on April 7 and two on April 11 had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at David Cameron Elementary School. People may have been exposed on April 14 to 16. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Colwood elementary school

Exposure at Esquimalt’s Ecole Victor-Brodeur also confirmed

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
National fitness group condemns unlicensed Kelowna gym’s anti-vaccine policy

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada says Flow Academy is shining a negative light on the industry

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Most Read