If you go on a Rogue Retreat tour with Founder and Executive Director, Chad McComas, you may hear him tell the story of ‘Grandma Jean,’ an eighty-one-year-old woman who spent freezing nights on the greenway in a cardboard box—not because she did anything wrong, but simply because her social security check was not enough to pay the rent. In every city, homelessness is on the rise. Some days, it may even be difficult to have compassion for those who give into addictions or make poor choices. Yet Rogue Retreat has seen proof that not every homeless person is the same. Close to eighty percent of the homeless population would like help in some way, shape, or form. “Every time we can get one more bed somewhere, that’s one more person who might be rescued from self-destruction. If we can help turn one life around, we may change the world five hundred years from now,” says McComas. “The ramifications are huge.”
Rogue Retreat was started over twenty years ago as a recovery house for those battling addictions. It wasn’t until 2006 that Rogue Retreat refocused its mission on the Rogue Valley’s homeless population—and how they could transition those individuals into permanent housing and gainful employment. A few years later, the organization received grants from the state which enabled the purchase of nineteen apartments and case management funding. Today, Rogue Retreat provides shelter for over three-hundred people—and is rapidly increasing those numbers. McComas describes homelessness as falling into a well; it doesn’t matter how a person fell in—that individual is still going to need a hand to climb out. Rogue Retreat case managers are an important part of “getting people out of the well”—and the key in helping those rescued people reach self-sufficiency. No one wants to fall into a well a second time.
The Urban Campground is a first step in rescuing someone in crisis. Visitors can stay in safe, clean pallet shelters or tents, and receive a free meal per day. A step beyond that is living in an actual building—like the Kelly Shelter. Rogue Retreat also runs several recovery shelters, and shared housing options, such as Heather’s Haven. Hope Village—where Grandma Jean was thankfully moved to—is an example of a level up: a transitional housing village with tiny homes, mailboxes, and more responsibility. Along the way, Rogue Retreat participants engage in conversations with their case managers about how to develop work habits, form healthy relationships, and navigate steps to getting a job or applying for an apartment.
In addition to housing and helping the homeless, Rogue Retreat has several initiatives that involve even more of the community. Clean Sweep lets participants from Rogue Retreat programs gain work opportunities—and valuable habits—through cleaning street fronts. The Thrift Shop also acts as a job training program for Rogue Retreat participants, while providing the community with a meaningful shopping experience. Hope University is another training opportunity, but for leaders of communities and organizations beyond Southern Oregon. Each course (i.e. Winter Shelters 101), provides a model that can help bring stability to the homeless in other neighborhoods. Even though we can think homelessness is a purely local issue, it’s not. Nationwide—even worldwide—the percentages of people ‘in-crisis’ continue to grow.
Very recently, the City of Medford and Rogue Retreat partnered to receive $2.55 million in funding for Project Turnkey, which will transform the Redwood Motel into emergency housing for Almeda Fire victims without homes. Rogue Retreat will operate the new facility, which hopes to provide forty-seven apartments to those in need.
“It’s humbling to see such growth in Rogue Retreat,” said McComas. “And though we may get the pat on the back, it’s really the community who comes alongside us and makes this happen.”
Since the organization’s beginning, the Southern Oregon community has been very involved in Rogue Retreat’s missions. Numerous mentors, donors, volunteers, and partner agencies work together to provide beds, showers, and daily food for hundreds. Yes, the in-crisis individuals in the region are helped through Rogue Retreat, but the nonprofit has a double-affect—the community is brought together for a common goal. “Our world has deep divides,” said McComas, “but community is who we are. We want to spread that culture—even beyond Southern Oregon.”
(One Rogue Valley Strategy 5.1.1 -Explore Creative Options to Increase the Supply of Workforce Housing in the Region).
(One Rogue Valley Strategy 5.1.4 -Engage Partners Traditionally Outside of Economic Development to Work toward Common Goals).
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