For individuals who have suffered from difficult times and have lost their homes, the winter season can be unbearable. Oregon’s homeless population has increased by 6 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the Point-In-Time report done every year. The Point-in-Time count works to record both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people to provide a snapshot of homelessness in the United States.
The Egan Warming Center is a coalition of community members and companies that are working together to keep the homeless warm on nights where the temperature drops below 30 degrees between Nov. 15 and March 31. Lane Community College recently partnered with the Egan Warming Center to provide another location and more shuttles to and from the warming center.
The motivation for the Egan Warming Centers comes from Major Thomas Egan, who passed away at the age of 60 from hypothermia. Egan was a decorated major in the National Guard, receiving many awards throughout his military career. Egan received awards such as the Oregon Superior Unit Ribbon, the Humanitarian Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. Egan retired from the National Guard at the age of 43 after two decades of service. A vigil is held every year on Dec. 17 to honor him.
As many retired veterans do, Egan had difficulty transitioning into civilian life. Veterans often have a hard time shifting back into everyday life and holding down jobs after many years in the service. There are over 1,300 homeless veterans sleeping on the street in Eugene on any given night, according to Oregon’s Point-In-Time report. Egan’s passing will be remembered as an inspiration for both his time and what he has provoked in the community.
Oregon has tried to combat these numbers by providing drop-in centers where homeless veterans can come by and wash themselves and their clothes, take part in rehabilitative activities and take shelter during the day. There are many organizations in Oregon that help these veterans find employment, such as The Homeless Veteran Supported Employment Program, which provides job development and placement and ongoing support to improve employment outcomes.
LCC is one of the many organizations around Lane County that are a part of the Egan Warming Center coalition of volunteers. Churches, rehabilitation centers, food donation centers and transportation businesses all work together to keep homeless people safe and warm on nights when the temperature drops below freezing.
The EWC has been set up and active for a total of six days this year and will continue to operate until the end of March. The EWC relies on volunteer support and donations to keep the organization running, and the support continues to grow as time moves forward.