Following three consecutive nights of activations, Egan Warming Centers concluded normal operations on Tuesday, Jan. 16, as nighttime temperatures leading into Wednesday morning were forecast to rise back above the program’s operating threshold of 30 degrees F.
But because of the life-safety threat expected to persist through daytime hours Tuesday and into Wednesday before accumulated ice begins to melt, St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County (SVdP) has opened a temporary emergency shelter at the Lane County Fairgrounds. SVdP, which administers the volunteer-run Egan program, is shifting the warming site at the fairgrounds’ Wheeler Pavilion into a staff-operated shelter open from 9 a.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday. This will allow the 250 Egan guests already there to remain in place until conditions improve.
“We deeply appreciate the caring volunteers and our support staff who have worked around the clock through the past several days and nights to sustain the Egan operation, which has stretched beyond capacity to keep people safe during this winter weather emergency,” said SVdP Executive Director Bethany Cartledge.
Through the course of activations on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights, Egan Warming Centers operated four sites in Eugene and Springfield that served about 400 unique individuals — made possible by the work of some 300 volunteers.
Egan warming sites normally open in the evening and shelter people through the night, then guests are able to access other public sites for warmth and shelter during the day. During this prolonged winter storm with lingering snow, ice and life-threatening temperatures, however, many of those other options for day shelter have not been accessible.
“We remain committed to helping those who have nowhere else to go stay out of the freezing rain and shelter in place during this time of increased hardship,” Cartledge says. “Employees from across many departments in our agency are stepping up, working extra hours, and doing whatever needs to be done to keep our most vulnerable neighbors safe.”
Help needed to offset shelter costs
At the same time, Cartledge notes that the nonprofit is providing these elevated levels of shelter and service, with all the increased costs they entail, just as it deals with a significant loss of daily revenue that normally supports its many humanitarian programs. Most St. Vinnie’s thrift stores remain closed for the fourth straight day because of the ice storm impacting the region.
“We know this is a passionately caring community, which is shown time and time again through the herculean efforts of our Egan Warming Centers volunteers and all the donors and partner organizations who keep that effort alive,” Cartledge says. “But just as we constantly pivot as an agency to serve the needs of our community, sometimes we must ask for additional help from that community during times of crisis like this.”