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

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

People in Kelowna’s City Park on May 18, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Downtown Kelowna’s City Park scheduled for facelift

Designs for the future of City Park unveiled; construction to begin fall 2021

The scene of a serious crash on Highway 33 in Kelowna that killed one and severely injured two others on June 20, 2018. (File)
Driver found guilty of causing death, injury in 2018 Kelowna crash

Travis Ryan Hennessy will face sentencing at a later date

(Michael Rodriguez - Capital News staff)
UPDATE: Downtown stairwell fire suspicious, Kelowna RCMP say

The fire was knocked down at Gotham Nightclub

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses media from the front steps of council chambers on March 23. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna, West Kelowna still looking to opt-out of speculation tax

Mayors say spec tax has missed the mark, revenue largely coming out of Canadians’ pockets

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Heather Barker. (File)
Manslaughter charge laid in Vernon woman’s 2018 death

Shaun Ross Wiebe, 43, faces manslaughter and assault charges related to the death of Heather Barker

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

Kamloops This Week.
48 COVID-19 cases and one death associated with outbreak at Kamloops hospital

One of the 20 patients infected has died, meanwhile 28 staff with COVID-19 are isolating at home

The City of Vernon is sending a letter to the provincial government to request that church be deemed an essential service amid the pandemic. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon mayor scolded for revealing stance on making church essential

Coun. Scott Anderson calls Cummings’ actions ‘arrogant’

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Head Brewer Kody Rosentreter, owner Wes Greve and taproom manager Lisa Deleo celebrated North Basin Brewing’s grand opening Jan. 22 and 23, 2020. (Contributed)
Osoyoos’ first microbrewery celebrates grand opening

The brewery hopes to show that the Okanagan is more than just wine country

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

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

Most Read