Rogue Retreat founder Chad McComas hugs longtime friend Scotty White of Medford during a rally Wednesday in Hawthorne Park to support McComas. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Rosann Thiessen of Medford helps organize a rally in support of Chad McComas at Hawthorne Park in Medford on Wednesday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
After the head of Rogue Retreat was terminated Tuesday, the nonprofit said Wednesday it laid off 25 people last week.
A crowd of about 30 people showed up at Hawthorne Park Wednesday afternoon to show their support for Chad McComas, the former executive director of Rogue Retreat who parted ways with the nonprofit Tuesday.
Supporters included a mix of young and old, housed and unhoused, some with signs, mechanics, dogs and stories of how McComas had helped them change their lives.
The group formed after news broke Tuesday that McComas would not be returning to Rogue Retreat after being placed on administrative leave in June following allegations by two groups, Siskiyou Rising Tide and the Siskiyou Abolition Project, that the pastor had ties with a group that advocated gay conversion therapy. in 2018.
The allegations led to two investigations, one by the city of Medford and one by Rogue Retreat.
Medford City Attorney Eric Mitton issued a report in July confirming a link between Set Free Christian Fellowship and conversion therapy, but the city did not consider that sufficient to revoke an $11,550 grant for services rendered to the church.
The results of an independent third-party investigation were released Wednesday by Rogue Retreat. The report found “no evidence of discrimination” by McComas or Rogue Retreat staff “toward LGBTQIA+ individuals (or anyone else),” according to a Rogue Retreat press release.
Additionally, Rogue Retreat, which provides extensive homeless services in southern Oregon, laid off 25 people last week, the statement said.
“Rogue Retreat is currently conducting assessments and process evaluations so that we can provide much-needed programs,” the statement said.
“As part of this top-to-bottom review, we have concluded that our current budget will not sustain the current size of our workforce. We have reduced our workforce to align with our payroll budget. Unfortunately, 25 of our dedicated colleagues were made redundant last week,” the statement said.
“Any organization of Rogue Retreat’s size and impact must constantly evolve and advance to remain relevant and solvent. For us, this means engaging in a thorough study and realignment of services to maintain our core vision of providing much-needed community services to our customers while remaining financially stable now and into the future,” the statement said.
Ashland resident Cass Bic, a supporter of Judi’s Midnight Diner, a sister project of Siskiyou Rising Tide, said McComas’ firing was “a really great first step and a show of faith that makes us feel a little safer than we all are. working to achieve the same goals.”
“We are happy that Pastor Chad has been fired and are looking forward to continuing to work to improve the quality of Rogue Retreat. We have been talking to homeless people, friends who live on the streets, and doing surveys and outreach,” said Bic.
“We have been speaking to many people living on the streets who have used Rogue Retreat’s services and been frustrated with their experiences. Rogue Retreat is supposed to be a low or no barrier, but when there is intolerance, intolerance itself is a barrier.”
Rogue Retreat board president Thomas Fischer said McComas’ departure was a financial decision and that the allegations regarding conversion therapy had nothing to do with the decision to part ways with McComas, who founded the organization.
“Our decision was not based at all on allegations of discrimination or things being said on social media. The decision was based entirely on things that have to do with the financial stability of Rogue Retreat,” he said. Fischer said.
“One of the hardest things was last Wednesday, making the 25 layoffs was really hard, because all the people at Rogue Retreat were working there, yes, because they need to make money like all of us, but there was such a strong sense of purpose . in wanting to serve people and see them progress”.
Fischer said employees who chose to attend the rally for McComas were not discouraged.
“Chad created Rogue Retreat and he was, is and forever will be the founder. The man is amazing in how he can see how to serve the homeless and get them moving. It’s going to be a hard thing to lose, but we have to move forward”.
On Wednesday afternoon, those who attended the rally in Hawthorne Park marched to the Rogue Retreat offices, which were closed.
Rogue Retreat case manager Cindy VanCamp, who left with the group, said employees were sent home early Wednesday because of the demonstration.
VanCamp said emotions were running high at Rogue Retreat after more than two dozen firings and “Chad was fired even after it was found he did nothing wrong.”
“When it comes to (Rogue Retreat), I’ve only known Pastor Chad to live by commandment 1 and commandment 2, and that’s love your God above all others and love one another,” VanCamp said.
“That’s the way he’s run this program, loving everybody the same. … He used to walk around our properties and pray for them. He used to go talk to people and find out what they needed. He’s irreplaceable.”
VanCamp said Wednesday morning that a meeting was held where employees were told that Rogue Retreat “had been struggling, financially, for 10 months, even before the allegations.”
He pointed out: “If that’s the case, why is the board not in trouble? Why get rid of the person who runs it even though he built it? What’s the board’s excuse?”
Mary Randahl, an employee at Rogue Retreat, said she showed up at the rally despite concerns about retaliation at work.
“What’s going on is so wrong. Chad is an amazing man, and I’m so upset about all of this. … Chad is Rogue Retreat, and I can’t believe this is happening,” he said.
Contact Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.
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