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Ahead of next cold snap, Egan Warming Centers make urgent call for more volunteers

EganWarmingCtrVolunteer01.jpg
Photo provided by Joel Gorthy, St. Vincent de Paul.
An Egan Warming Centers volunteer prepares to place sleeping pads on the floor of a host site during an activation.

Volunteers are still being sought for a network of warming sites for the unhoused across Eugene-Springfield.

The early and intense cold snaps seen across the South Willamette Valley have taken many Oregonians off-guard, including those who help homeless people find shelter.

“Here it is barely into December and we’ve already been open seven nights,” Tim Black told KLCC.

EWCVoluneerFood.jpg
Photo provided by Joel Gorthy, of St. Vincent de Paul.
A volunteer prepares to carry food into the kitchen of an Egan Warming Centers site.

Black is the winter strategies and emergency response coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul. He says originally November 15th was the starting date for the Egan Warming Centers, but that’s no longer the case with many nights already dipping below 30 degrees in the region.

“We always need more volunteers, our volunteers are wonderful, but especially when we we’re open multiple nights in a row, the regulars need a break,” said Black. “They can’t do this every night, it’s not safe.”

People interested in volunteering can sign up for virtual or in-person orientations on St. Vinny’s website. New volunteers are welcome.

Black added that it’s “painful” to keep the sites closed during some of the damp and foggy conditions. But he said St. Vincent de Paul has to work with established protocols to keep the program sustained, and volunteers from burning out.

“When we average the forecasted low temperatures from various weather sites, if the average is below 30 (degrees Fahrenheit), then we will start spinning the wheels to open, and it takes us a good 48 hours to open that first night.

“So that weather last week was so just cold and wet. It was horrible, but it was not below that 30 degrees when we had to make those decisions.”

Meanwhile, organizations including CAHOOTS, First Christian Church, and Lane County currently are taking donated winter survival supplies and clothing for the unhoused.

©2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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