Katherine McParland, executive director of A Way Home Kamloops, has died.
McParland, who was in her early 30s, passed away on Friday, Dec. 4, though a cause has not yet been announced.
A Way Home Kamloops is a non-profit agency devoted to working on ending youth homelessness. The organization’s annual Campout to End Youth Homelessness is set for Dec. 11.
“Katherine was an amazing spirit filled with light and love,” friend Benjamin Bowden told KTW. “She used her struggles in life to give back to her community by obtaining her masters in social work and creating the non-profit organization A Way Home Kamloops to bring the spotlight to youth homelessness. She will be dearly missed in everyone's life she touched.”
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. She later went on to complete her Masters of Social Work Leadership program at University of Calgary.
In 2017, McParland was the recipient of the Kamloops YMCA-YWCA Peace Medal, having been nominated by Tina Lange, a city councillor and a one-time landlord of McParland’s. In 2020, she received the Heart of the Grasslands award from the BC Association of Social Workers.
McParland was also appointed to the federal government's Advisory Committee and co-chaired the BC Coalition to End Youth Homelessness.
The A Way Home board is still in the process of contacting staff of the organization and youth with whom it works. A press conference is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 7, at 11 a.m. in Riverside Park.