Eugene's First United Methodist Church operates an Egan Warming Center site. Photo by Chandlor Henderson.

A Freezing Weekend for our Unhoused Community

Eugene expects a low overnight temperature Sunday of 26 degrees 

As Eugene and America as a whole continue to adjust to COVID-19, we are also facing and searching for solutions for a large homeless population. This weekend in Eugene the low temperature is forecast to be 35 degrees Saturday evening, and it’s expected to be an even chillier 26 degrees Sunday, but the Egan Warming Center won’t open for another month. Those who are unhoused have limited options on where to go.

Lane County announced on Friday, Oct. 23 that it will be opening an emergency shelter a the Lane Events Center in response to the freezing weather. The shelter will operate under COVID-19 protocols and will be available between the hours of 6 pm and 8 am.

Eugene is working to provide shelter for the homeless by adding new shelter beds in addition to the 655 than are currently spread out at five rest stops. But building these structures takes time, and the cold weather is rapidly approaching. 

“The Egan Warming Center’s planned opening is Nov. 15. The center will open with modified practices and procedures, as traditional approaches have been strained due to COVID. The normal sites aren’t available due to COVID, and fewer volunteers are available as many of them are over 60 years old,” says Tim Black, the winter strategies coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County.  

Black continues, “Finding warm spaces for the homeless is a challenging issue, and is especially strained due to COVID protocols. The Egan Warming Center is working through ideas with Lane County and Eugene to keep people safe and alive during freezing days and nights, while also protecting guests, volunteers and staff. The inability to use larger congregate spaces requires more sites, and more volunteers, which is a huge challenge.” 

The Springfield City Council approved an ordinance that expands the locations where temporary indoor emergency shelters are allowed. With the permission of the property owner commercial buildings can temporarily shelter people indoors. 

“With winter coming the city and St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County worked together to identify 1650 Centennial Boulevard as a potential location for the Springfield Egan Warming Center this winter,” says Amber Fossen, public information officer for the city of Springfield. “The ordinance approved by the council was not specific to this site, but does make it possible for this location to be a potential warming site.”