It was a cold winter’s day, and Katherine McParland was despondent. She had no home to go to, let alone a place to get warm. She had experienced violence several times in her young life but, after various placements within the foster care system, she had aged out of care. She was on her own and homeless.
Luckily, someone who knew her story recognized her as she trudged through the snow. The person stopped their car and took McParland to a hotel. It wasn’t the best housing alternative but at least she had a safe place to start getting her life in order.
Today she’s working on her master’s degree in social work.
This December 13, McParland is inviting people from all walks of life to join her for a night on the streets in Kamloops. It will be cold, it will be uncomfortable, but together they will raise money to provide housing for young people experiencing homelessness. And, in Kamloops, the need is great.
“Camp Out to End Youth Homelessness shows young people who are experiencing homelessness that there’s someone who cares for them and is trying to create solutions,” says McParland, the executive director of A Way Home, a non-profit organization she founded in 2014. The third annual event hopes to raise $50,000 through participants’ fundraising and donations.
Last year, 56 participants were given a hot dinner from the Rotary Club and a cardboard box before they experienced what it was like to have no shelter for at least one night.
“We’ve seen some pretty amazing outcomes from the fundraising,” McParland says. “In 2018, we put 19 youth and two babies in program housing through Youth Housing First: we take out a lease on an apartment, the young person moves in and receives a year-long rental subsidy. Thompson Rivers University will provide a full-tuition bursary. It’s pretty cool.”
The bad news is that A Way Home could help less than half of its 121 young referrals.
“Youth homelessness is real, it’s hidden, and we need to shed a light on it and develop the solutions they need, and those solutions look a lot different from the solutions for adults,” McParland says.
Help give young people experiencing homelessness a place to call home. Sign up here. If you can’t participate but want to help, sponsor a participant or make a donation. A Way Home is a registered charity and can issue tax receipts.