Chad McComas, founder of Rogue Retreat, hugs his longtime friend Scotty White, of Medford, at a rally in Hawthorne Park on Wednesday in support of 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 fired on Tuesday, the nonprofit announced on Wednesday that it fired 25 people last week.
A crowd of around 30 turned out to Hawthorne Park on Wednesday afternoon to show support for Chad McComas, the former executive director of Rogue Retreat who was split from the nonprofit on Tuesday.
Supporters included a mix of young and old, housed and unhoused, some with signs, megaphones, dogs and stories of how McComas had helped turn their lives around.
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 from two groups, Siskiyou Rising Tide and Siskiyou Abolition Project, according to which the pastor had ties to a group that espoused gay conversion therapy. in 2018.
The allegations led to two investigations, one by the city of Medford and the other by Rogue Retreat.
Medford City Attorney Eric Mitton released a report in July confirming a link between Set Free Christian Fellowship and conversion therapy, but the city did not consider it sufficient to revoke an $11,550 grant. $ for services provided at 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 “against LGBTQIA+ people (or anyone else),” according to a Rogue Retreat press release.
Additionally, Rogue Retreat, which provides extensive services to homeless people in southern Oregon, laid off 25 people last week, the statement said.
“Rogue Retreat is currently conducting evaluations and process reviews so that we can deliver much-needed programs,” the statement said.
“As part of this top-down review, we have concluded that our current budget will not be sufficient to support 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 read.
“Any organization the size and impact of Rogue Retreat must constantly evolve and move forward to maintain its relevance and solvency. For us, this means engaging in in-depth study and realignment of services to maintain our fundamental vision of providing much-needed community services to our customers while remaining financially stable now and in the future,” the statement read.
Ashland resident Cass Bic, an attorney for Judi’s Midnight Diner, a sister project to Siskiyou Rising Tide, said firing McComas was “a really good first step and a show of faith that gives us all a little bit more confidence. that we are all working towards the same goals.
“We are pleased that Pastor Chad has been terminated and look forward to continuing to work on improving the quality of Rogue Retreat. We spoke to homeless people, friends living on the streets, and conducted surveys and raised awareness,” Bic said.
“We spoke to many people living on the streets who had used the services of Rogue Retreat and had been frustrated with the experiences they had had. Rogue Retreat is meant to be little to no barrier, but when you have bigotry involved, the bigotry itself is a barrier.
Rogue Retreat board chairman Thomas Fischer said McComas’ firing was a financial decision and the conversion therapy allegations had no bearing on the decision to part ways with McComas, who founded the organization.
“Our decision was not based at all on the allegations of discrimination or comments made on social media. The decision was based entirely on matters relating to the financial stability of Rogue Retreat,” Fischer said.
“One of the hardest things was last Wednesday, doing the 25 layoffs was really, really hard, because every single person in Rogue Retreat worked there, yeah, because they need to make money like all of us , but there was such a sense of purpose in wanting to serve people and see them progress.
Fischer said employees who chose to attend the rally for McComas were undeterred.
“Chad created Rogue Retreat and he was, is and always will be its founder. The man is amazing in how he can see how to serve the homeless and move them forward. It will be difficult to lose, but we have to move on. »
On Wednesday afternoon, those who attended the rally in Hawthorne Park marched to the offices of Rogue Retreat, which were closed.
Rogue Retreat case manager Cindy VanCamp, who marched with the group, said employees were sent home early Wednesday due to the protest.
VanCamp said emotions were running high at Rogue Retreat after more than two dozen layoffs and “Chad was fired even after finding out he had done nothing wrong.”
“As for (Rogue Retreat), I have only ever known Pastor Chad to live by commandment 1 and commandment 2, and that is to love your God above all others and to love yourself,” VanCamp said.
“That’s how he ran this program, loving everyone equally. …He walked through our properties and prayed for them. He used to go talk to people and find out what they needed. He is irreplaceable.
VanCamp said a meeting was held on Wednesday morning where employees were told that Rogue Retreat had “been in financial trouble for 10 months, even before the allegations.”
She noted, “If that’s the case, why isn’t the board in trouble? Why get rid of the person who runs everything and who built it? What is the council’s excuse?
Mary Randahl, an employee of Rogue Retreat, said she showed up to the rally despite fears of workplace reprisals.
“What’s going on is very wrong. Chad is an amazing man, and I’m really upset about all of this. …Chad is Rogue Retreat, and I can’t believe this is happening,” she said.
Contact Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.