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Housing & Homelessness

Egan Warming Centers haven't opened this season, but they're standing by

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Melorie Begay/KLCC News
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The Memorial building in Downtown Springfield will serve as one of the host sites when the Egan Warming Centers activate this season.

Egan Warming Centers have yet to activate this season because temperatures haven’t fallen below 30 degrees. Nevertheless, preparations are underway to ensure they’re ready to open when needed.

Winter strategies and emergency response coordinator Tim Black said they’re still facing some challenges brought on by the pandemic, like a lack of host sites and COVID safe transportation. Black said they do have some good news though, they’ve secured Downtown Springfield’s Memorial building this year.

Now, it's a matter of waiting and hoping to avoid a long stretch of freezing nights.

“It’s really going to stress the whole system, if we can have enough volunteers to sustain that, if we can have enough sites to fit everybody that needs shelter,” he said. “When we’re open multiple nights in a row that's when we get an increase…We keep getting more and more full, we saw that with the snowstorm a few years ago.”

Black said this season they’ll likely have to lean on the Lane Events Center as a site and are actively training volunteers to ensure they have enough people for when they do open. In the meantime, he said they have four trucks packed and ready to go.

"We have a lot of great community partners out there, both the [City of Eugene and City of Springfield] and the county, and all of the service providers we depend on CAHOOTS and Whitebird, public safety, we'll just do our best like we always do," he said.

The story of Thomas Egan, who died in 2008 on a night where temperatures dropped below freezing, is a good reminder to treat the unhoused with kindness, Black said.

"What I always think about is just the judgement, there's no escape of judgement for people who live on the street, averted eyes, cold stares, or people crossing the street to be on the other side," he said.

The warming centers counter that judgment, Black said, by offering a free low-barrier place to sleep and a warm meal to eat. "Everybody can practice that in their own life just a little bit by not averting eyes and just smiling and saying good morning," Black said

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