EUGENE, Ore. — Controversy is heating up over Egan Warming Centers.
KEZI 9 News viewers called us asking how it could be that the centers remained closed Wednesday night despite temperatures being well below their stipulation of 30 degrees.
The temperature dropped as low as 20 degrees–that’s the coldest it’s been in about a year. While coordinators can often expect a difference of a couple of degrees here and there, even they were surprised by the drastic disparity.
Signs of that night’s frosty weather was still around Thursday morning.
“We came in early on the bus, and then we walked over to the church, and there were two guys and they were down in the well, the concrete steps down there said it was freezing and they never opened,” said Junction City resident Sage O’Connor.
They being the Egan Warming Centers. Despite temperatures well below freezing, they remain closed. Coordinators say they dropped the ball on this one.
“We feel miserable about it. We don’t want the homeless that we’re trying to help all the time miserable,” said Charley Harvey, St. Vincent de Paul Associate Executive Director.
An apology was put up on the group’s website Thursday morning, noting that their forecast sources had predicted inaccurately.
“A ten degree difference, does that make you want to assess how you guys decide when to open?” we asked.
“We always reassess and look at the models and of course talk about it with staff and volunteers this morning, but the model is probably still a pretty good model,” said Terry McDonald, St. Vincent de Paul Director.
Coordinators use three main models and say over their four years of work, they’ve been the most consistent and unless they prove otherwise, they’ll stick to it. Those on the street, may not understand why, but they hope at the very least organizers will find a way to get the word out to their guests sooner than later.
“It would be nice if they had a better way to find out if the centers would be open or not, because when it’s cold like it was last night, and you come onto an Egan Warming Center and it’s closed and you have to camp on in the porch in the cold, that’s not any better than camping by the river really,” transient Martin Dunham.
Because the centers were closed Wednesday night, many were forced to find other means of staying warm. If they weren’t able to make it to the Eugene Mission, others shuffled around in bars, restaurants, and any other open shop until light.