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Board of homeless services provider fires founder amid controversy

A row of tents at Rogue Retreat's Urban Campground in Grants Pass.
Rogue Retreat
A row of tents at Rogue Retreat's Urban Campground in Grants Pass.

The founder of the Rogue Valley’s largest homeless services organization was terminated this week, following allegations of conversion therapy at his church.

Pastor Chad McComas was told by the Rogue Retreat board Monday that he was being terminated. The board cited poor administrative and financial management when firing him. He’s been on administrative leave as the nonprofit’s executive director since mid-June over allegations that conversion therapy practices are being practiced at his church, Set Free Ministry in Medford.

The conversion therapy claims come from several Southern Oregon activist groups alleging that McComas’ influence as the founder of homeless services provider Rogue Retreat led to discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

McComas points out those allegations were disproven in an investigation from the City of Medford last month.

“I was hoping that the board would be able to say ‘wait, this is our founder. This is the heart and soul of our organization. This is who all the employees look up to. We better figure out a way to keep him,'" he says. "But they chose not to.”

McComas says he expected something was happening behind the scenes after Rogue Retreat didn't do anything with the City of Medford report.

Rogue Retreat didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

He believes the organization has faced threats from other nonprofits, who would pull funding from Rogue Retreat unless McComas was fired.

McComas says while he may have personal beliefs regarding the LGBTQ community, the allegations of conversion therapy or discrimination haven’t been proven.

Rogue Retreat has been conducting a separate, independent investigation into the allegations, but that has yet to be released.

An online petition created on Monday to support McComas and reinstate him at Rogue Retreat has gathered over 150 signatures so far.

Now, McComas is worried about what his firing could mean for homeless services in the region.

“You can’t remove the founder and the heart and soul of an organization without it crumbling," says McComas. "And right now it’s crumbling. We can say it’s cashflow issues but it’s more than that. It’s morale, it’s how oversight’s being done.”

Rogue Retreat named Development Director Matt Vorderstrasse as interim executive director in late July.

Updated: August 17, 2022 at 1:54 PM PDT
This story has been updated to include quotes from an interview with McComas.
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 west coast.