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As youth count continues in Kamloops, aging out cited as major factor in homelessness

Information is still being collected and analysis still needs to be done, but Katherine McParland already knows one of the factors that is contributing to youth homelessness in Kamloops -- aging out.
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Information is still being collected and analysis still needs to be done, but Katherine McParland already knows one of the factors that is contributing to youth homelessness in Kamloops -- aging out.

When a teen turns 19, he or she is no longer part of the government system that provides care for children. As a result, resources aren't so readily available, she said.

McParland is youth homelessness manager with Interior Community Services and the person who created A Way Home, which tackles the problem of homeless youth.

Part of that work involves the first homeless youth count in a Canadian community, which began last week in Kamloops.

McParland said it is striking how many homeless youth she has talked to say moving from the child and youth to the adult care systems provided by the government led to many challenges that contribute to their lack of housing.

One young man McParland spoke to described aging out as recreating "the same trauma they felt of apprehension."

Two years ago, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s representative for children and youth, wrote a report on aging out that began by stating, "Few parents in British Columbia would mark their son or daughter's 19th birthday by walking them to the front door of the family home, shaking their hand, wishing them good luck and then ushering them outside. But that's essentially what happens to many youth in the care of B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development when they turn 19, become adults and age out of the provincial care system."

Last year, the government announced a new website, AgedOut.com, to help teens in foster care prepare for their 19th birthdays, when they no longer have access to foster parents, social workers or financial assistance.

Last May, Ontario charity The Children's Aid Foundation, gave B.C. $2 million to help those aging out of the system, money it hoped would boost high-school graduation rates and reduce homelessness.

McParland said the goal is to host an event in December that will also address the results of the one-week youth homeless count in Kamloops, which ends on Thursday.

She's hoping there will be a report or at least a one-page summary, something that could be used to guide responses to the issue in the city in coming months.

Several agencies have helped with the count and, for the first time, the city's bylaws officers have been involved in trying to document the number of homeless in the city.

Other agencies have done annual homeless counts in the past.

McParland said having bylaws officers involved has been good as the city employees connected with, as of earlier this week, 18 youth, something she hopes will help build relationships and understanding.

Those contacted have also received backpacks containing various essentials and all the youth have been and will be invited to a gathering Thursday at the Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops.