The Rolla Mission Addresses Common Myths in Community
The Rolla Mission, incorporated in 2014, has grown a lot in the 5 plus years since its inception. What began as a small outreach of a local church has evolved into a busy organization that serves as the first step in a pipeline of community resources, as well as a base of operations for our friends and neighbors in crisis. The Rolla Mission provides the most basic of practical assistance - food, shelter, and hygiene - while assisting individuals and families with finding the path to stability in their unique situations. Many in the Rolla community are greatly aware of what happens at The Rolla Mission every day, either because they support us with their time and resources or because they work with one of the dozens of other community organizations with whom we partner. But others may not know, or may even have heard some of the unfortunate misinformation that is sometimes proliferated regarding The Rolla Mission and other organizations like it. Here are some common myths and corresponding facts.
Myth: The Rolla Mission is determined to stay downtown.
Fact: We have an expressed goal, and have been actively working toward finding a new location. We have outgrown our current facility and realize the current location isn’t ideal. For over a year, our staff and Board of Directors have been developing a business plan, working toward securing funding, and have been looking into a new location.
Myth: The Rolla Mission does not connect people to resources.
Fact: Every day we make countless referrals to both our patrons and people that call to ask for help. We work closely with over 25 local organizations to connect people to the vast amount of local resources available that they may not have known existed. Additionally, The Rolla Mission is part of the Missouri Balance of State Continuum of Care, which connects our patrons with housing resources across the state.
Myth: The Rolla Mission helps only people that are homeless.
Fact: We help many people who are in difficult situations, including those who are in housing. Whether they need access to food, medical care, help to look for a job, or help to pay the rent, we work with agencies, both local and state-wide, to get people connected to resources that can assist.
Myth: There are frequent overdoses and incidents of violence at The Rolla Mission.
Fact: There has never been an overdose at The Rolla Mission. While the people we serve face stressful circumstances, and there have been occasional issues with short-sighted behavior, violence is never tolerated and is exceptionally rare. It is no more likely that violence or any other issue would happen at The Mission than any other public place. We have community standards that our patrons are expected to uphold. One of those standards is a zero-tolerance policy for drugs, alcohol, or weapons in our facility. We have high expectations that our patrons, staff, and volunteers would work toward maintaining a safe environment for everyone.
Myth: The Rolla Mission busses people from other towns to Rolla.
Fact: We do not, nor have we ever, bussed, or even provided transportation, to anyone from out of town to come to Rolla. In fact, The Rolla Mission has continually met with people from surrounding communities so they can implement their own shelter, eliminating the need for people to travel from their hometown for shelter.
Myth: People who are homeless are dangerous, violent, and/or criminals.
Fact: A person who is homeless is no more likely to be a criminal than a person who is housed, with one legal exception: camping ordinances. People who are homeless break that law merely by being unhoused. The reality is that most spend their time and resources trying to survive and improve their situation. Rather than being dangerous or lawbreakers, they are parents trying to work or find a job while they live in a car with their children. They are teens who have no supportive adults in their lives while they try to find a place to live, so they can hopefully stay in school. They are senior citizens with poor health struggling to get by. People who are homeless are more likely to be victims of a crime than to commit a crime. It is important that we not vilify people without homes, but instead see them as neighbors in need of the best-fit assistance that can help them find a home.
“I love The Mission; they have helped me with a lot more than they even know. I was 8 months pregnant when I was there and they found me a place to stay. They are all the best support anyone could ever have!!!” -L.
Myth: Homeless people are transient/drifters (or “If you build it, they will come”)
Fact: Studies have shown that homeless people do not migrate for services. When a person becomes homeless, they must rely heavily on the few resources they do have: their doctors, friends, family, employment connections, etc. If they move away from the area, they are cut off from all of those resources. When people do move to new areas, it is because they are searching for work, have family in the area, or other reasons not related to services.
Of the patrons that regularly visit The Mission, 18% are not homeless, 55% were living in Rolla when they became homeless, and 100% of patrons not from Rolla when they became homeless cited either work/job offer, medical care, or family as their reason for coming to Rolla.
Myth: A fence was installed at a daycare near our facility because of The Rolla Mission.
Fact: The daycare across the street had a fence installed as part of their ongoing effort to provide a safe, secure environment for the children. While it is true that the increased presence of people outside their facility renewed the urgency, the desire to put up a fence was expressed before The Mission opened. It is very important for us to be good neighbors and we are continually in contact with them, ensuring that all issues are addressed. We are grateful for their support and are blessed to have such compassionate neighbors as partners in our service.
Myth: Background checks and ID’s are necessary to maintain a safe environment.
Fact: The Rolla Mission offers a public service, just like many other organizations and businesses in town. We allow anyone seeking our services to enter. Many who are homeless do not have ID’s, and it’s a struggle to obtain one when facing poverty. We also work closely with the Rolla Police Department, S&T Police, the local Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) network, and just recently became a part of the Missouri Balance of State Continuum of Care system. On the rare occasion someone should come in and cause a safety concern, we have multiple ways to approach it outside of background checks.
Myth: Homeless people became homeless because of poor choices.
Fact: According to the National Coalition to End Homelessness, the top five reasons for homelessness are: 1) lack of affordable housing, 2) lack of a living wage, 3) domestic violence, 4) medical bankruptcy, and 5) mental illness. None of these reasons are related to choice as they can happen to anyone.
Myth: All people who are homeless come to The Rolla Mission.
Fact: We only serve a portion of people struggling to find homes. Some do not utilize our services because of shame or feel that they would be taking away from someone who needs it more. Some do not come because they do not want to operate by our community standards, and others just aren’t aware that we exist.
Myth: The Mission is enabling people.
Fact: The Rolla Mission’s focus is on empowering our patrons to thrive and survive on their own. Providing basic human needs and resources alone does not promote dysfunctional behavior. The Rolla Mission has measures in place to ensure it’s patrons are making progress, no matter how slow it may seem.
Myth: Homeless people are unemployed.
Fact: Declining wages have put housing out of reach for many workers. In a study by the The National Low Income Housing Commission, they found that Missouri workers making the $8.60 minimum wage would need to work 59 hours per week to be able to afford a one-bedroom home at fair market rent or 74 hours per week for a two-bedroom place. At The Rolla Mission, we connect people to employment specialists who offer job training, development and placement services, including vocational training, resume and interview skills and placement with local employers willing to look beyond background issues or employment gaps.
“The Rolla Mission is that extra little help to get through that rough patch in life. They help you talk through your problems and find a way to fix whatever it is that is getting in your way from that American dream we all have. Nowadays, I’m truly blessed; I have a steady job that helps me to provide for my family and me. It was a struggle to find work. When I did, I wouldn’t have made it through the waiting period of getting paid without the sustenance from The Mission to be able to perform as I needed to at work. None of that would have been possible if it had not been for big kind heart that The Mission has shown me.” - T.
Myth: The Rolla Mission isn’t really helping anyone.
Fact: Last year alone we served over 22,000 meals to the poor in our community, filling the food insecurity gap for many families. We provided shelter for 152 nights to an average of 22 people per night, who would have frozen sleeping in an alley or under a tree. We have helped many people out of homelessness, by providing our resources and connecting them to other available resources.
Myth: All people who experience homelessness are addicts.
Fact: Many people who experience homelessness do not struggle with substance abuse problems or addictions. Just like in the general population, only a percentage of those who are experiencing homelessness deal with addictions. People experiencing homelessness may deal with other issues related to their experiences of homelessness, including trauma and mental illness, for example.
“The Mission means the world to me. It was a safe place to be mentally and physically when I couldn’t provide for myself. The first place I was able to be comfortable , clean myself, and eat regularly that I had found in nearly a years time. It provides the basic needs that everyone takes for granted. I went from a heightened state of feral survivalism to caring about what food tasted like, rather than acknowledging whether there was food or not. I was able to truly want to live again.” - P.
Myth: The Rolla Mission isn’t fully meeting the needs of the homeless.
Fact: While we have worked hard to grow and provide the services we currently offer, we have goals that we are actively working toward, such as developing a plan for a year-round shelter and shelter for families. Our future goals for service are based on the needs identified in our community as well as research-based models that have been proven to reduce the rate of return to homelessness. In order to accomplish these goals, we need your help. We need your support, advice, and hands-on help. It truly takes a village to solve the problem, and we can’t do it alone.
Myth: The Rolla Mission doesn’t care about the concerns of our community.
Fact: Our very existence is an act of openness to the community. We began as a ministry of one church and then became a separate non-profit to allow for other churches and organizations to become involved, influence, and form our organization to better serve the needs of the homeless and impoverished in our community. Your concerns matter very much. Please, take the time to stop by to learn more, ask questions, and provide constructive feedback. Openness and transparency are core values of ours. We care - deeply, about EVERY member of our community.
If you have questions about The Rolla Mission and would like to learn more, our staff and board are always happy to have a conversation or provide a tour. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (573)308-5474.