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Group camping out for homeless youth in Kamloops has grown to 50+

A group camping out in the Domino’s Pizza parking lot on Friday in support of homeless youth has grown to more than 50 people and Katherine McParland is in awe of how the grassroots initiative has spread.

Domino's owner Rocky Hunter approached the A Way Home Committee with the idea to donate 1,000 pizzas and camp outside to raise funds and awareness around youth homelessness and the initiative has taken off.

“Originally we thought it might just be Rocky from Domino's camping out with a couple of the staff and it's now increased to over 50 people that we know of,” said McParland, youth homelessness manager with the A Way Home Committee.

“I'm actually in awe of what's happened. I think this is a really beautiful show of solidarity of our community to stand up for these young people. This is their reality every night and now our community is standing up and saying we don't want this to happen to our young people.”

Campers have been collecting pledges to support the creation of safe suites for vulnerable youth in Kamloops and more funds will be raised through a Domino’s Pizza drive-thru on Friday.

Camp Out For Homeless Youth is the first fundraiser of its kind in Kamloops and representatives from businesses, nonprofits, youth groups and city council will be taking part on December 15th. The group will include city councillors Kathy Sinclair, Tina Lange and Donovan Cavers.

Rotary recently donated $1,000 toward the campout and the fundraiser has received support from a number of business and organizations, including the Canadian Home Builders Association, Open Door Group and Urban Systems.

“I think this is an issue that is resonating with people because these are our kids. These are Kamloops kids,” McParland said.

“I think a lot of people are parents and have children of their own and can see their potential, that these kids may not have a home, and just wanting to step up for these young people.”

Funds raised will support an initiative to create safe suites that will be staffed 24/7. McParland said an unstaffed pilot project that ran in Kamloops failed to keep the street out, with issues of domestic violence, sexual exploitation and suicide making there way inside the walls because there were no workers to support the youth in their transition.

The A Way Home Safe Suites would be able to house four youth at a time and be staffed 24/7 to help create a bridge for youth from homelessness to housing.

McParland said the committee will be looking to the provincial government for funding, and they expect the program to cost between $200,000 and $300,000 per year. It would be able to house four youth at a time and will be operated by a collective of three or four organizations.

McParland said the longer youth are on the street, the more trauma they experience. A Way Home estimates there were more than 82 Kamloops youth in need of a housing option such as this last year.

“So often when young people are in it, they actually may feel like no one cares about them,” McParland said. “They might feel invisible to community and now I know I can look those young people in the eye and say Kamloops loves you, Kamloops is sleeping out for you and we're trying to make things better.”

There are a couple ways to support Camp Out for Homeless Youth. Domino’s Pizza on Fortune Drive will be selling medium pizzas for $10 all day, with all proceeds going to the cause. People are encouraged to pre-order if purchasing more than five pizzas.

You can join the effort by collecting pledges and camping out on December 15th or donate directly to the A Way Home Committee. FOr more information on collecting pledges or donating, get in touch with McParland at 250-320-7837.



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