Youth homelessness advocate remembered as ‘fierce warrior’ by friends, colleagues

Youth homelessness advocate remembered as 'fierce warrior' by friends, colleagues

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.

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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 McParland, left, was homeless until she moved into a suite owned by former Kamloops city councillor Tina Lange. (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

“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.”

Katherine McParland is remembered by her friend, Amy Peterson, as having ‘enduring positivity.’ (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

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

Lange speaks to Shelley Joyce about McParland’s struggles and achievements. 12:00

Tap the link below to listen to Amy Peterson’s interview on Daybreak Kamloops:

Daybreak Kamloops9:39Homelessness advocate Katherine McParland died on Dec. 5

Amy Peterson, a close friend of McParland, speaks about her achievements and struggles before she passed away. 9:39

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