A Way Home Kamloops to host annual campout at McDonald Park on Dec. 8
Submitted by Enbridge Inc.
A determined group of people will brave the freezing night at McDonald Park in Kamloops, BC on Dec. 8. They’re not homeless, but they want to put a spotlight on youth homelessness.
A Way Home Kamloops (AWHK), a non-profit organization, has organized an annual Campout to End Youth Homelessness since 2017 to promote awareness around the issues of youth homelessness, and raise funds to support youth programs.
“The idea is that people get to experience a little taste of what it might be like to be homeless for one night,” says Tangie Genshorek, AWHK Executive Director. “We encourage people to take part in any way they can that could give them a bit of perspective on youth homelessness.”
Genshorek stresses that youth homelessness differs from street homelessness, often remaining hidden, with youth sleeping in cars, on couches, or in inappropriate or unsafe housing.
A Way Home Kamloops offers housing and support services to at-risk youth up to the age of 27. The society also serves as a transitional home for those who have no place to go after leaving the foster care system at age 19. Founded in 2012 by Katherine McParland, a former homeless youth, the group also offers a variety of programs for necessary life skills, aiming to foster independence and healthy community integration.
“We offer life skills training programs like self-development, physical and mental health wellness planning, as well as education and employment development,” says Genshorek. “The first step youth need to take is come to us, ask for help. We’ll do a housing intake, which will help us understand how we can best support their needs.”
A Way Home Kamloops currently has 30 beds to house homeless youth, but the numbers of young people in need are rising and AWHK is seeing younger and younger youth looking for help. The provincial government is working with the organization to build a place with 39 units of low-barrier housing for youth at risk of homelessness, called Katherine’s Place, in honour of McParland, who passed away in 2020. Katherine’s Place is set to finish construction by year-end with a targeted opening date in October 2024.
Meanwhile, the annual campout began to raise funds to help support the youth programs initiated by McParland. This year, they aim to raise $155,000, targeting 100 people to campout in person and online. In 2022, 50 camped out at McDonald Park, with an additional 25 joining online from their backyards, parking lots, and even on top of Harper Mountain.
Five Enbridge employees have pledged to join the campout in person. The company also donated $10,000 to support the organization through its Fueling Futures program.
“It’s alarming to consider that almost half of our region’s homeless population has experienced youth homelessness,” says Dean Freeman, Director of Field Operations for Enbridge’s BC Pipeline system. “Our community should provide these vulnerable young people the shelter they rightfully deserve. A Way Home Kamloops embodies this mission, and we are grateful and proud to be a part of it.”
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