Myths Vs. Fact

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 that we hear and corresponding facts.

Common Myths

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.

Fact: The Rolla Mission has never bussed or provided transportation for anyone from out of town to come to Rolla for our services. We maintain a diligent screening process, prioritizing individuals who became homeless while residing in Phelps County. Individuals might come to Phelps County or Rolla for various reasons, such as medical care, employment opportunities, or housing prospects. The fact that they’re staying at our shelter doesn’t imply they came to the region specifically for our shelter services.
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.

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.

Fact: We only serve a portion of people who are unhoused. Some do not utilize our services because of shame or feel that they would be taking them away from someone who needs them 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.

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.

Fact: The moment someone steps into our shelter, we prioritize their financial stability. On their very first day, guests meet with our case manager to initiate their income search. We proudly collaborate with the MO Job Center and Voc Rehab, ensuring that our patrons are linked with potential employment opportunities. And, as of September 2023, we’ve taken an even more dedicated step in this direction: introducing a full-time employment specialist. This specialist not only assists our patrons in obtaining and sustaining employment but also liaises with local employers and small business owners. Our goal? To pair businesses with skilled individuals that perfectly match their needs, reinforcing the community’s economic backbone.

Fact: The tangible impact The Rolla Mission has made in Phelps County stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to our community. We have proudly served over 300,000 meals to those facing food insecurity in our community. In fact, we remain the sole organization in Phelps County to offer free, daily meals to those grappling with financial challenges. As of the start of 2023, our dedicated efforts have facilitated the transition of 317 previously homeless individuals into their own homes, reigniting their hope and independence. But our impact doesn’t stop there. On average, every month, we celebrate the placement of 10 new job positions, fostering both individual growth and enhancing our local economy. And we don’t merely stop at providing shelter and meals; our doors open every week to offer a variety of classes ranging from substance use recovery to budgeting, housing preparedness, Bible study, gardening, healthy eating, and much more. At The Rolla Mission, we’re not just helping; we’re transforming lives.

Fact: While addiction can be a challenge for some individuals experiencing homelessness (just like people that are housed) it’s a misconception to believe it’s a universal issue. At The Rolla Mission, we have forged strong collaborations with numerous detox centers, in-patient treatment facilities, and outpatient clinics to support those who do seek assistance for addiction. Furthermore, as of September 2023, we’re expanding our commitment to proactive support through our case management outreach initiative. This means our case managers will extend their services beyond the confines of our shelter, reaching out to assist those unhoused individuals who may not currently reside with us, ensuring holistic care and assistance to all who need it in our community.

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.

Fact: The Rolla Mission has a foundational commitment to equipping individuals with the resources they need to live self-sufficient, dignified lives. Individuals utilizing our emergency shelter and case management program are explicitly discouraged from panhandling. We ensure they are provided with an extensive array of essentials, from food, shelter, and clothing, to the use of our free laundromat, showers, and even medical co-pays for those without insurance. This also extends to assisting with procuring official documents like IDs and birth certificates.

Our core mission revolves around EMPOWERING those we serve, steering them toward a life marked by independence and self-reliance. Unlike in some communities where these foundational needs might not be readily available, Rolla stands out. Our community is incredibly fortunate to host a multitude of organizations that collaboratively cater to these pressing needs.

If you ever encounter individuals panhandling and feel uncertain about providing monetary assistance, there are several ways to extend a helping hand. You can guide them to The Rolla Mission or any other collaborative organization in our network, offer them food or hygiene items, or directly contribute to organizations that work diligently to furnish the resources they’re seeking. Your act of kindness, no matter the form, makes a world of difference.

Fact: Safety is paramount at The Rolla Mission. Everyone seeking shelter at our facility undergoes a thorough screening using the national sex offender database, ensuring that people that are required to register as sex offenders cannot stay in our shelter. This rigorous process ensures the security and well-being of all within our premises, reaffirming our unwavering commitment to providing a secure sanctuary for those in need.

Fact: Contrary to this belief, The Rolla Mission has witnessed overwhelming local support. A significant 68% of our backing comes directly from the heart of our community. Further testament to our community’s commitment? Last year alone, our dedicated local citizens generously contributed over 63,000 volunteer hours. It’s abundantly clear: The vital work of The Rolla Mission thrives and flourishes thanks to the unwavering support and dedication of our community members.

Fact: The Rolla Mission operates with a clear goal: empowering individuals to progress and rebuild their lives. It’s a misconception to assume our patrons are merely seeking handouts. On the contrary, we’ve implemented robust measures to ensure every person utilizing our services is on a path of progress, regardless of the pace. Every individual seeking shelter with us is enrolled in our case management program, a pivotal part of which involves striving for income.

Commitment is crucial. Those benefiting from our emergency shelter are expected to remain actively engaged with their case management and persistently work towards their set objectives.

We understand the complexities many face, especially those with past criminal histories or employment gaps. It’s a tough journey, and community collaboration can make a significant difference. If you represent a business willing to offer opportunities to individuals facing these challenges, we earnestly request you to connect with us. Together, we can craft transformative stories.

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.

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 or at (573)308-5474.