Friends and colleagues of Kamloops youth homelessness advocate Katherine McParland are mourning her sudden death last weekend and eulogizing the stellar achievements she made while facing adversities in her life.
McParland, who died Dec. 5, went through 28 different foster homes before she aged out of the foster care system at 19. She was homeless after that for a long while, but went on to earn a master’s degree in social work leadership.
The 34-year-old was the founder and executive director of A Way Home Kamloops, which works to end youth homelessness. She also served on B.C. Housing’s board, was co-chair of the B.C. Coalition to End Youth Homelessness, and a member of the federal government’s advisory committee on homelessness.
“Her expertise and leadership … [have] already transformed the lives of many young people and will have a lasting impact in our communities,” David Eby, B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, said in a statement after her death.
McParland died just a week before the Campout to End Youth Homelessness on Dec. 11 and 12, an event hosted by her organization every December in Kamloops to raise public awareness of the issue.
“It really makes a huge difference knowing that people are camping out and experiencing something that I did a long time ago,” she said in October on CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.
McParland was fondly remembered by many B.C. MLAs on social media this week. She was praised by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs for initiating a resolution at the B.C. Assembly of First Nations’ annual general assembly to urge action plan for addressing Indigenous youth homelessness.
I am devastated to hear the passing of Katherine McParland of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/awayhomeKamloops?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#awayhomeKamloops</a>. Katherine McParland worked tirelessly to help foster children & other vulnerable youth realize their dreams & become who they were meant to be.
I’m so sorry to hear of this unexpected loss. Katherine McParland was a young caring, advocate for youth homelessness prevention in the community and her loss will be significantly felt throughout the Kamloops region. My thoughts are with those grieving. <a href=”https://t.co/4AvINGGMiR”>https://t.co/4AvINGGMiR</a>
The cause of McParland’s death is still being investigated by the BC Coroners Service, but former Kamloops city councillor Tina Lange, her former landlord who later became her close friend, says she had been struggling with her mental health.
“Katherine did suffer from depression and would get overwhelmed with the stress in her life,” Lange said.
Amy Peterson, another close friend, says McParland was severely impacted by the deaths of her father and grandfather five years ago.
“It’s unfortunate, but left a void in her life,” Peterson said. “She was really seeking to fill that void [and] longed for this love.”
Lange says McParland was a “fierce warrior” who had a strong sense of responsibility for every youth on the street and had a big dream to become an MLA, but these goals may have taken a toll on her.
“We all believe she could get there, which is [a] pressure,” Lange said.
Peterson says she hopes people will cherish the time they had with McParland and not focus on the tragedy of her death.
“She had this enduring positivity that always struck me as something I wish I had more of,” Peterson said. “Watching her grow and blossom was honestly my pleasure.”
Tap the link below to listen to Tina Lange’s interview on Daybreak Kamloops:
Daybreak Kamloops12:00Former Kamloops councillor Tina Lange remembers homelessness advocate Katherine McParland
Tap the link below to listen to Amy Peterson’s interview on Daybreak Kamloops:
Daybreak Kamloops9:39Homelessness advocate Katherine McParland died on Dec. 5