Egan Warming Center, operated by the nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County (SVdP), is in place to protect local unsheltered residents when sub-freezing overnight temperatures descend on Eugene-Springfield. The lifesaving program’s 2021-22 operational season formally began Monday, Nov. 15, and will end March 31.
The start of Egan’s season means that program managers will closely monitor forecasts and activate warming sites whenever average overnight temperatures are projected to dip below 30 degrees F. During an activation, teams of trained volunteers open each warming center in the evening and operate it through morning. They provide unhoused guests with sleeping pads and blankets, warm drinks and meals, heartwarming hospitality, basic first aid and more — all inside heated host sites offering protection from the frigid night.
“Our volunteers are ready for that first dangerously cold night,” said Tim Black, SVdP’s winter strategies and emergency response coordinator. “The pandemic worsens the every-day trauma of living without permanent shelter, even in good weather. For at least one cold night at a time, all seeking shelter will be greeted at Egan Warming Centers with warmth, care and kindness.”
Entering the second winter of the pandemic, the Egan program has lost access to many previous host sites. Despite COVID-19-related hesitancy and safety protocols that now limit guest numbers, several faith communities have again offered up their facilities as warming centers. These include Trinity United Methodist Church, Temple Beth Israel, and Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, all in Eugene; and Episcopal Church of St. John the Divine in Springfield. First United Methodist Church in Eugene will again serve as Egan’s youth site.
But the largest and most prominent Egan warming site, at least when it’s available, will be the Lane Events Center at the fairgrounds in Eugene. Black said the venue is ideal because of its proximity to downtown and its multiple large buildings connected by common areas between. This configuration simplifies logistics and volunteer staffing, Black explained.
Compounding the staffing challenge, Egan has also lost the services of many experienced volunteers during the pandemic. Many of them are retirement-aged or have other COVID-19 exposure risk factors that preclude them from participating.
“Our greatest challenges will again be having enough volunteers and having enough downtown space committed to warming-center use,” Black said.
New-volunteer orientations Nov. 18, 23
Orientation and training are required to join the family of Egan Warming Center volunteers. To add to a qualified volunteer pool to call upon in the colder months ahead, Egan will host virtual new-volunteer orientations from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, and Tuesday, Nov. 23.
Anyone interested should RSVP by email to email@example.com and request a link to either session, hosted via Zoom. More trainings will be added during the winter season.
Material, monetary donations sought
Egan Warming Center also has an ongoing need for material donations from the community, including coats, socks and other warm clothing, sleeping bags, cleaning supplies, paper products, hand soap and sanitizer. Donations can be dropped off, clearly marked for Egan, at St. Vinnie’s Seneca donation site, 705 S. Seneca Road in Eugene. A longer list of needed items and Egan’s Amazon wish list are online at eganwarmingcenter.com/donations/.
Egan also is in need of food and drink donations, but those should go through FOOD for Lane County. Most-needed items include coffee and tea, canned soups, bread, condiments, pastries, juice, milk, bottled water, cookies, crackers and chips, fruit, sugar, creamer, lettuce and cheese.
Tax-deductible monetary donations can be made online, or with checks noting EWC on the memo line and made payable to St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Inc., P.O. Box 24608, Eugene, OR 97402.
Egan Warming Center background
Egan Warming Center is named in honor of Major Thomas Egan, a homeless man who died sleeping outside in Eugene during a 2008 cold spell. (He’s pictured at left in an undated photo taken during his deployment to Korea.)
The program receives funding from Lane County and support from a broad coalition of community members, service providers, nonprofits, faith and activist communities, and local government.