Egan Warming Centers, our community’s low-barrier winter shelter program, is again ready to save lives as the 2023-24 cold season commences. This critical, volunteer-operated network activates as needed to shelter local unhoused residents one night at a time when subfreezing temperatures descend on Eugene-Springfield.
The Egan operational season formally begins Nov. 15 and ends March 31. Managers of the emergency shelter program monitor multiple weather-forecasting systems and activate warming sites in Eugene and Springfield whenever average overnight temperatures are projected to dip below 30 degrees F. During an activation, teams of trained volunteers open each available warming site in the evening and operate it through morning. They provide guests with sleeping pads and blankets, warm drinks and meals, heartwarming hospitality, basic first aid and more — inside heated host sites offering protection from the dangerous conditions outside.
The program is named for Major Thomas Egan, an unhoused U.S. Army veteran who froze to death in Eugene while sleeping on the ground outside during a 2008 cold spell. “He deserved better than that, as all people do,” says Tim Black, SVdP’s winter strategies and emergency response coordinator. “If Major Egan had a safe, warm place to go that night, where he was welcomed with compassion and without judgement, it could have saved his life.”
Organized to ensure that the sad end of Egan’s life story is never repeated, the warming centers receive funding from Lane County and support from a broad coalition of community members, faith and activist communities, local government, nonprofit agencies and service providers.
“It’s inspiring every winter to see this community’s incredible humanity, which is on display every time we unite to bring people in from the cold,” Black says. “It’s hard work, but it’s vital work. And every year we need new caring volunteers who are willing to step in and do that work. If you’re interested in helping your most vulnerable neighbors in the most direct, most human way possible — literally, helping to save their lives — we hope you’ll join us.”
Volunteers needed; next orientation Nov. 30
Orientation and training are required to join the family of Egan Warming Centers volunteers. To add to a qualified volunteer pool to call upon in the colder months ahead, Egan hosts virtual new-volunteer orientation sessions via Zoom throughout the season. The next planned session is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 30, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Anyone interested should RSVP by email to email@example.com and request a link to the online orientation.
Monetary, material donations also sought
Egan Warming Centers has an ongoing need for both financial and material donations from the community to sustain this lifesaving service through every cold season. Tax-deductible monetary donations can be made via a secure online form accessible at www.eganwarmingcenters.org (or directly by clicking the “donate” button below). Alternatively, check donations noting EWC on the memo line and made payable to St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Inc., may be mailed to P.O. Box 24608, Eugene, OR 97402.
The warming centers also continually need certain material donations — primarily warm, weatherized gloves, coats and shoes — that can better equip shelter guests to survive in harsh winter weather conditions even outside of activation periods. Donations can be placed in the in-store donation barrels at any St. Vinnie’s store location in the Lane County area.
Food/drink donations in support of Egan Warming Centers 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.