Egan Warming Centers, which provides shelters for homeless citizens when temperatures drop below 30 degrees, is looking for volunteers.

After two decades of service in the Oregon National Guard, Major Thomas Egan struggled after retirement from the service. Eventually, he became homeless. As a result of no protection from the severe winter weather he was found frozen with a bottle of vodka in his hand on a Eugene road in 2008. The temperature was 15 degrees. Local community members united, and formed “Egan Warming Centers” to ensure another homeless life would not be lost again in Eugene.

Lane county hosts nine active centers, with two ready for overflow. Men, women and children are all welcome for refuge at the warming centers. Families are generally directed to the Mission, who are better equipped for their needs. Two warming center sites allow pets, the Seventh Day Adventists, and Ebbert Methodist Memorial churches.

Last year, between Nov. 15 and March 31, EWC housed an average of 250-300 people. In order for a building to become a warming site, it must meet certain criteria. The location needs to have bathrooms, and preferably a kitchen, and cannot be located near a school.

Egan Warming Centers encounter challenges. “Keeping a large pool of volunteers to keep sites up and running on a moment’s notice is difficult,” Pastor Dan Bryant, of First Christian Church said.

Lane Community College is a host of a warming center, Building 4, Room 104.

Volunteers are trained in de-escalating situations, EWC policy and procedures and information of how the system works.

In 2014 First Lady Michelle Obama executed a challenge to mayors across the nation. “The Mayors Challenge to end Veteran Homelessness” was created with  aspirations of housing as many homeless veterans as possible.

Saint Vincent de Paul and the City of Eugene accepted the challenge. Operation 365 was created with the goal of housing one homeless veteran everyday for a year in Eugene. Operation 365 exceeded expectations — the year closed with 404 veterans housed.

Mayor Kitty Piercy and other Lane County Leaders, including McDonald, have been invited to the White House to celebrate the local success of Operation 365. Eugene officials fly out Sunday, Nov. 20 to attend their honoring at the White House on Monday, Nov. 21.

In order for the Egen Warming Centers to operate, about 1,000 volunteers are needed. For the next free training, or more information email heartofeugene.org.

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