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

Williams Lake First Nation provides a community COVID-19 update Friday, Jan. 15. (Williams Lake First Nation Facebook image)
Williams Lake First Nation Chief highlights importance of mental health amid COVID-19 outbreak

A time to be forgiving, sincere and loving, says Willie Sellars

Interior Health confirmed Friday, Jan. 15, there are now six staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 at Cariboo Memorial Hospital. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
UPDATE: Six Cariboo Memorial Hospital staff members test positive for COVID-19

Interior Health said Friday, Jan. 15 testing is ongoing

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

The worker who tested positive was en route to the Mine Site near Wells. (BGM Map)
Wells mining company detects second positive COVID-19 case of 2021

The employee, who is asympomatic, had no known contact with Wells or Quesnel

Cale Murdock, 23, has been training with the Williams Lake Blue Fins and is hoping for an opportunity to compete at the Canadian Olympic Trials in April in Toronto, depending on whether they still take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Blue Fins swimmer Cale Murdock preparing for Canadian Olympic Trials in April

Cale Murdock was selected as one of the top 20 swimmers in the country in his events to attend

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

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

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality