by Mary Sharon Moore
Cold weather is here. It’s time to pile on the blankets for luxurious warmth. Cozy is good.
Cold weather is also the signal for Eugene-Springfield’s Egan Warming Centers to activate when temps drop to 29 degrees or below.
Seven winters of serving at Egan Warming Centers remind me that unhoused folks in our community don’t have the luxury of “cozy” on bitter cold nights. For them, life is hard. Just figuring out how to survive one more night in decent weather is exhausting. Bitter cold weather shows no mercy.
For unhoused folks, staying warm while unsheltered on bitter cold nights is a life-or-death gamble. Retired Maj. Thomas Egan lost that gamble on the night of Dec. 18, 2008. He froze to death in a snowbank down by the railroad tracks at the end of Blair Boulevard. He willingly served his country, and died alone, a broken man.
In response to this tragedy, our community rose up and demanded: Never again!
That’s who we are: people who know that human suffering, especially among our most vulnerable, is not OK. We’ve already shown ourselves that we are people who work together to ensure that no one is left out in the cold when exposure to the elements can kill you.
I don’t “volunteer” at Egan, any more than I volunteer at being a citizen, or a decent human being. I proudly serve at Egan. Sure, I don’t get paid.
That’s not the point. I serve at Egan because I see it as my duty, as both citizen and human being, to do my part to relieve suffering and restore the dignity of those who daily suffer the fallout of economic hardship in systems designed to keep them there.
None of us alone can solve the problem of economic and social injustice.
But every one of us who knows how good it is to be warm on bitter cold nights can do something.
Thanks to St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Egan Warming Centers make it easy for folks like you and me to show up, pitch in, be a team, feel supported and do something not only nice but life-saving for our unhoused neighbors on bitter cold nights.
If you haven’t served at an Egan Warming Center in the past, I’d love to serve beside you this winter, as would other seasoned folks, to show you the ropes, get you in the groove and help you find your niche. See details for volunteering at EganWarmingCenters.org.
The nights will be cold, but your heart will feel warm.
Mary Sharon Moore is a local writer, storyteller and engaged citizen based in Springfield.