EUGENE, Ore. — It’s been three nights into the season for the Egan Warming Centers, and the program director says they’re already bursting at the seams.
The five centers have hosted an estimated 300 people every night since Wednesday. That’s about double the number the Egan Warming Centers hosted last year. As for keeping up with the increase, organizers say they’re not turning away anyone.
Because of the large increase, organizers say they’re in need of a new facility. They say if their past is any indication, something or someone will step up.
“It’s been a miracle. Every night we open it’s a miracle,” said Doug Bales, Egan Warming Centers Program Director. “Things have come through, and things have worked out for us. We didn’t expect this to last two years, and here we are in year six.”
Organizers say some of the increase in need came from the downsizing at the Eugene Mission, but they’re investigating where the rest of the people seeking shelter came from. Part of the crowd is from the homeless camp on Hilyard and Broadway.
There are dozens of tents now set up there. A few prefer to stay at the camp and utilize the heat of a small bar-b-que pit fire.
Others were on the move seeking the shelter of the warming centers.
“They know everybody there at the church pretty well and the volunteers and stuff,” said homeless camper Kriste West. “We do have some people who have some anxiety and stuff. We just let the people working there–the volunteers–work with those people and put them in the right positions.”
Homeless campers like the man known as ‘Pops’ say they’d rather stay at the makeshift campsite than go to the shelter.
“That’s a handout. We need real help,” said Pops.
He says that real solution would be a permanent place where area homeless could go. For now, he tries to stay warm and teach other who prefer to remain outdoors how to do the same.