The Egan Warming Center is a program administered by St. Vincent de Paul: Society of Lane County. It started after a homeless man, Thomas Egan, known as Major Egan, froze to death after being turned away at the Mission for being drunk. After being found dead,
frozen with a bottle of vodka at his side, a group of faith-based people and homeless advocates, including Marion Malcolm, David Robertson, Hippie Jones and Charley Harvey, all petitioned to open the old armory to house the homeless. The old armory was destroyed, but the Egan Warming Center lived on.
Hosea Youth Services came to Egan Warming early last season and they teamed up to provide a warm place for the homeless to sleep between the dates of November 15-March 31 when the temperature falls below 30 degrees. Egan Warming trains volunteers and provides some material support for the nights when the Eugene Evangelical Church opens up its doors to the cold and tired homeless.
In addition to their work with Hosea, Egan Warming also runs five other sites, distributes meals, bus rides, and some social and medical services.
Doug Bales, project coordinator on staff at St Vincent de Paul, downtown site leader and kitchen help, says,
“The greatest joy in life comes as the result of being sheltered and fed; meeting the most basic needs. For between 200 and 400 people each night we are open, we get to share that very basic need at the time they need it the very most.”
Egan Warming has an abundance of volunteers, and their numbers often are higher than the homeless on their service nights. There are over 150 consistent, dedicated volunteers, along with another 100 occasional volunteers, as well as all of the community that has stepped up.
“The next biggest step of happiness is to give back, to serve others, to gain self-actualization,” Bales says.
Bales and Egan Warming have noticed a great impact on the community as a result of the help and compassion that the program has provided to those in need.
“From the Chief of Police to the homeless guys sweeping up the parking lots of our sites,” Bales says, “this community has really embraced this idea. It’s very humbling to be a part of this.”