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Residents to camp out to raise money for youth homelessness

People from all over B.C.'s Interior will be camped out in a parking lot overnight on Dec. 15 to raise money and awareness for homeless youth in Kamloops.

50 people to spend night in Kamloops, B.C. parking lot to raise funds to house homeless youth

Katherine McParland, left, was a homeless youth until she moved into a suite owned by Tina Lange (right). (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

Katherine McParland went through 28 different foster homes before she turned 19 when she aged out of the foster care system. When she left foster care, she was homeless.

"It was the first snowfall and I was living on the streets along the river bank and it was very cold," McParland said.

After scouring Kijiji for an affordable place to live, she found a small suite downtown. She met the landlord and moved in soon after.

But going from living on the streets with other homeless people to finding a safe place to stay came with its own challenges.

"All the people that had tried to keep me safe on the streets came in and they wanted a safe place to be," McParland said. "All the predators, the people that were preying on me on the streets, they also came in. Eventually the house got taken over and I wasn't even able to live there anymore."

She ended up sleeping on couches, in a parkade and even on the roof of the home she was renting.

Eventually, because of neighbours' complaints her landlord, who happened to be Kamloops city councillor Tina Lange, evicted her. 

"It was difficult," Lange said. "I have three daughters of my own, and it could have been one of my kids that was in that situation."

Katherine McParland, youth homelessness manager with the A Way Home Committee, said in 2016 82 youth were unable to be housed in Kamloops. (The Gathering Place / Facebook)

Lange and McParland stayed in touch, because Lange said she knew McParland was a smart girl who would be able to turn things around.

McParland is now the youth homeless manager with A Way Home, a committee dedicated to ending youth homelessness in Kamloops.

"It was pretty amazing to watch her turn around her situation and do what she's doing now," Lange said.

Camp out for homeless youth

On Dec.15, 50 people, including Lange, will be camped out overnight in a parking lot on Kamloops' North Shore in support of homeless youth, raising awareness and fundraising for the safe-suite program.

McParland said A Way Home identified 82 homeless Kamloops youth that were unable to be housed. She described the safe-suite program as a space that helps young homeless people get into safe housing, and helps them achieve goals related to education and employment.

People and businesses from Kamloops, Kelowna and Penticton have all signed up to be part of the event. 

The local Domino's Pizza owner has donated 1,000 pizzas that will be sold for $10 each to raise money for the cause. McParland said one camp participant has already raised $1,500 and the Rotary Club of Kamloops has donated $1,000.

Though McParland is supportive of the initiative, she won't be sleeping in the parking lot out of concern it will trigger her past trauma from living on the street.

"I've seen what happens with kids that have aged out of foster care and they don't have the life skills," McParland said. "Unfortunately there's a lot of predators out there. So we have youth without life skills, without family support, and inevitably they're going to end up on the street if we don't do something about that."

With files from Daybreak Kamloops