Pandemic impacting at-risk youth in Kamloops in a big way - InfoNews

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Pandemic impacting at-risk youth in Kamloops in a big way

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April 23, 2020 - 1:45 PM

While the pandemic is forcing people to stay home, the new number of youth facing homelessness in Kamloops has nearly doubled.

Nearly twice as many youths have been referred to the waiting list for safe housing in Kamloops than a few months prior and the executive director of A Way Home Kamloops points to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Katherine McParland says there have been 14 new referrals to the organization this month, bringing the total of local youth seeking a home to 49. She says it is twice as many referrals as in February.

“In Kamloops, youth are struggling to have their basic needs met. If you're homeless, it's a super challenging time,” McParland says. “If you don't have that safe, secure place to be or a sense of home at this time you're really at risk in so many different ways.”

The problem isn’t specific to Kamloops.

Youth across the province could face evictions from foster homes, increased stress or anxiety and a lack of access to online education, according to a report by the B.C. Coalition to End Youth Homelessness that was recently sent to various provincial ministries.

McParland says youth in housing placements such as foster care, or couch surfing, may end up on the street while landlords are currently banned from evicting tenants.

“There's a lot of placement breakdowns for youth in care that are being exacerbated at this time,” McParland says. “What we’re hearing is that a lot of foster parents in the province can be quite elderly and feel at risk if the youth in care are not able to socially distance, or maybe have part-time jobs."

The loss of a safe space is only one of many problems for homeless youth during this time.

“We’ve had to respond to an increased need,” McParland says. “We’re dealing with a lot more mental health and substance use problems from the youth that we’re serving and they’re requiring a higher level of support... In these times, youth lose a lot of their support systems.”

According to the End Youth Homelessness report, lack of access to the internet was a major cause for concern, as at-risk youth can't access online education or potentially life-saving resources.

McParland is asking for residents of Kamloops to consider donating a laptop or computer to a youth in need, or to consider sponsoring a wireless network plan.

While it may seem bleak for the youth who are without a safe place to go and combing through limited resources, McParland says A Way Home Kamloops and Wrap Force have secured housing for six young people this month, with one more currently going through the process.

For more information on A Way Home Kamloops and how you can help at-risk youth, click here.

— This story was corrected at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, April 24, 2020 to say the number of homeless youth in Kamloops had not doubled, but the number of referrals had.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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