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Rogue Valley homeless advocate raising money to house homeless seniors

An older man wearing a patterned shirt with a flack fleece jack over it. He's speaking to the camera in a park, tents are visible in the distance.
Set Free Services
Chad McComas in an introductory video on Joy Community

The former Rogue Retreat executive director is starting a new project focused on senior homelessness.

Pastor Chad McComas was the founder of Rogue Retreat, the region's largest homeless services provider. He was fired last year over what the nonprofit's board called financial mismanagement.

Now, McComas is back with a new project called Joy Community, which is aimed at providing affordable housing for homeless seniors in the region.

“All the facilities I built for the homeless had 30-40% percent of them filled with seniors,” McComas said, referring to his time at Rogue Retreat. “There’s a tsunami wave of senior homelessness coming.”

Seniors are the fastest growing homeless population in California according to state data. Homelessness spiked in Oregon during the pandemic.

McComas said there’s less financial support for seniors in homeless programs.

“When I worked at Rogue Retreat, a lot of our funds came from coordinated care organizations, which were under the Oregon Health Authority,” he said, describing Oregon's low-income health care provider. “The OHA would pay us to take care of clients, to get them off the streets because it's cheaper. But once a person hits 65 they’re no longer a client of the CCO’s, they’re now under Medicare and not under the Oregon Health Plan. Once they get under Medicare, Oregon doesn’t do anything to help them.”

McComas said his goals are to raise enough money to buy a handful of small shelters for homeless seniors, which could be rented out for a low rate and allow the guests to stay as long as they’d like.

Joy Community is run as a part of Set Free Services, a nonprofit created by McComas’ church that offers food, clothing, and shower and laundry services to those in need.

He said they’ve already raised $22,000 of their $200-300,000 goal. The nonprofit is currently looking for land, with possible sites in Medford, Phoenix and Talent.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.