Katherine McParland, a fierce and well-known advocate for youth facing homelessness and executive director of A Way Home Kamloops, has passed away.
McParland, who founded A Way Home Kamloops, had experienced youth homelessness herself, which helped fuel her passion for the subject. She founded the organization, which has become central to how youth homelessness is dealt with in the city.
"I regret to tell everyone who loved her that she’s passed away," writes her friend Talaina Chipura on Facebook. "I hope and would respectfully request of people to please not get lost in any gossip, but rather celebrate and remember her for the beautiful, passionate, courageous, resilient young woman she was."
A Way Home Kamloops is set to have its annual camp out next weekend, a major fundraiser for the non-profit.
McParland's advocacy work saw Kamloops become the first city in Canada to hold a youth homelessness count, in 2016. Another count was held in 2018. The next one, scheduled for next spring, will be the first-ever youth-led count in the country.
McParland was also instrumental in creating and fundraising for Safe Suites, housing for young people who have experienced homelessness. The initiative provides youth with a case manager and full wraparound services, including staff on hand 24/7. Safe Suites opened in December 2019.
In 2017, McParland was appointed to the federal government's advisory committee on homelessness. She also co-founded the BC Coalition to End Youth Homelessness. During the pandemic, she was vocal about the challenges youth in foster care face during COVID-19, like running into placement issues. She also raised the alarm when an estimated 500 youth were about to age out of care.
McParland sat on the BC Housing board of commissioners, a position she held since April 2018.
More recently, she earned a masters in social work leadership from the University of Calgary (she got her bachelor degree in social work from Thompson Rivers University).
In May of this year, she was the recipient of the Heart of the Grasslands award. The accolade is given each year by the Thompson-Nicola branch of the BC Association of Social Workers, and recognizes exemplary contributions to the community.
"Please remember her for all of her years of dedication to her community and the youth that she loves so much," writes Chipura. "Please remember her for her wicked crazy laugh [and] her tenacious personality. Please talk about how inspirational and hard-working she was."
A Way Home Kamloops has confirmed McParland's passing and will be holding a press conference tomorrow at 11 a.m.
Editor's note: A Way Home Kamloops has moved the press conference to a digital platform (Zoom), so Castanet will not be able to carry it live as previously mentioned.