Who Is Homeless?

Understanding those experiencing homelessness and their stories.

People have a vision of who they believe to be homeless. But in reality, often the stereotypes aren’t true and don’t tell the whole story. Reasons for homelessness are as varied as individuals. Yes, substance abuse can play a part, which can lead to losing a job, which can lead to losing a home — yet there are thousands of other stories.

Some people are homeless only briefly, while others struggle chronically. At its core, homelessness means isolation and desolation — a lack of home, a lack of family, and a lack of community.

“When a person falls into a well, it doesn’t matter how they got there – they’re not going to get out without help.”

– Chad McComas, Rogue Retreat Co-Founder

Types of Homelessness


When a person faces chronic barriers that lead to being homeless for longer than a year. People may have a multi-generational family history of homelessness.


When a person has experienced three separate episodes of homelessness within a given year, which may be due to mental illness or addiction.


When a person goes through a major crisis or catastrophic event, such as job loss, a medical condition, divorce, domestic abuse, family loss, or natural disaster.

How Do People Become Homeless?

Many have fallen through the cracks of their community, and are alone. This isolation is crippling and it keeps people stuck. In our years of providing services to homeless individuals in Southern Oregon, we’ve found they are:

  • People who’ve lost family.
  • Teenagers or kids who ran away from unhealthy homes.
  • Parents who’ve lost jobs, then childcare, then homes, then cars.
  • People battling addiction or mental health challenges.
  • Veterans who are emotionally or physically wounded.
  • Seniors who can’t pay their bills from social security alone.
  • People who have experienced trauma.
  • Families who lost their homes in fires or natural disasters.
  • Victims of domestic violence.
  • People who experience ongoing barriers to earning a livable wage.
Photo of Stephen, a Rogue Retreat participant
 Graphic of Oregon: Oregon's population represents 1.3% of the total US, but our homeless population represents 2.6% of the total US.
* Report from Oregon Community Foundation

Homelessness in Southern Oregon

Oregon is home to a disproportionately large population of homeless people compared with other states. The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that nearly 15,000 Oregonians were without a home on any given night in 2020.

In Southern Oregon, our homelessness and housing dilemmas have stemmed from a shortage of affordable and available rental housing, the occurrence of natural disasters (like the 2020 Almeda Fire), the ongoing opioid epidemic, and the need for more intensive social services to serve those who are chronically homeless.

How Does Rogue Retreat Help?

Rogue Retreat was founded to help those who can’t help themselves. It isn’t our purpose to judge why someone has fallen into homelessness, but it is our goal to provide a hand-up through our supportive services to give them another chance at life.

Once a participant is stabilized first with housing (a supervised campground, a shelter, one of our tiny house villages, etc.), their nervous system begins to calm down. With rest, nutrition, and medical care, their physical and mental health begins to improve. Then, with guidance from our supportive services staff, a person can start to realize their own capacity for restoring their life.

Wrap-around services include shelter, food, clothing, job readiness, addiction services, medical, mental health counseling, legal support, financial support, and more.
A man unlocking a door

Why is Hope So Important?

Hope is a necessary first step. Only after a person has hope for what’s to come, can they start seeking support to reach their highest potential.

Humans need hope, just like we need human connection. When a person loses hope, it often takes friends and family to pull them out of it. Often, those experiencing homelessness have experienced a catastrophic loss of family, belongings, community, income, and even a sense of identity. They do not have a community to pull them out of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness.

Hope makes the difference. It restores belief that good things are yet to come. Hope can even help a person understand their suffering and achieve a deeper connection to their sense of self, empathy, and purpose. Hope is the key ingredient to our participants’ capacities to restore their lives with our help.

Is It Working?

When someone seeks drug counseling to break the pattern of addiction, it’s working. When a mother is able to live with her children again, it’s working. When a couple leaves the program and buys their first home, it’s working. We celebrate successes every day, and each small or large success is a step forward out of the well of homelessness and into a fuller, richer life.

We served 1,187 people in 2020. The journey out of homelessness is longer for some than others. In their own time, however, participants begin to regain their self-sufficiency, their motivation, their community, their health, and their hope.

Inspiring hope in our participants — we have learned — is essential to their success.