City & Government, Springfield

Hope on the horizon for Springfield’s homeless

The Springfield Public School Administration Building at 525 Mill St. served as an Egan Warming Center for Springfield before it was deemed unsafe after damages done during last years snowstorm. VICTORIA STEPHENS/THE CHRONICLE

SPRINGFIELD – The Egan Warming Center is hopeful of finding a new location to service the Springfield area this winter. Negotiations are underway for a site that will likely provide at least a temporary resolution.
”We are moving forward for a site this year,” said Tim Black, winter strategies coordinator for the Egan Warming Center. ”Until the details are worked out, I can’t talk more about where that is, but that is likely a one-year solution.”
If things go as planned, details on the site will be available within the next few weeks. ”We are always looking for suitable sites,” he said. ”Longer term, we’re always still looking for people that would be happy to host an Egan warming center.”
Egan Warming Centers are administered by St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County with assistance with community partners throughout the area. They are open from Nov. 15 to March 31 whenever the temperatures dip below 30 degrees. Overall, there are 10 Egan Warming Centers throughout Lane County, including Springfield, with one at Lane Community College and two that serve Downtown Eugene.
In Downtown Eugene, one church – First Christian Church at 1166 Oak St. – serves meals and another church – Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church at 1300 Pearl St. – provides shelter.
”There is no reason that we need to have just one site in Springfield,” Black said. ”We are a community low-barrier emergency winter shelter – low-barrier meaning that we don’t ask questions as long as somebody abides by all of the behavioral rules that we have in place.”
Egan Warming Centers are named after Thomas Egan, a military veteran who froze to death on the streets of Eugene in the winter of 2008. His death sparked the impetus to create emergency shelters for local homeless people when the weather becomes intolerably cold.
In Springfield, the number of people housed per night of activation has ”typically has been anywhere between 70 and 80 and close to 100 when we really have bad weather, but typically right around 80 per night,” Black said.
The warming center in Springfield previously had been at Ebbert Memorial United Methodist Church at 532 C St., until it was determined to be unsafe by the fire marshal due to lack of sprinklers in the basement where people were staying. So last year, the warming center moved to the Springfield School Administration Building until it was damaged during the snowstorm and determined to be unsafe.
After the closure of the school building, the Springfield Adventist Church at 1630 12th St. stepped in. ”They helped us last year,” Black said. ”The Adventist was very kind and allowed us to finish out last season there, but it was clear at that point that wasn’t going to be our home to start the season.”
Black said that typically the faith community of churches and synagogues volunteer to be used as Egan shelters, with the newest being Temple Beth Israel at 1175 E. 29th Ave. in Eugene. Each site requires support and help getting approval from the city, county and fire marshal. Last year, the shelters were activated for 22 nights so that people who fall through every other safety net could be safe and warm for a night. There were 6,303 overnight stays, by 1,527 individuals, and 1,113 volunteers who spent 23,228 hours in service.
Because of the effort involved, Egan Warming Centers are always looking for more volunteers. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old; training will be announced in the fall.
The annual Lane County Homeless Point in Time count conducted the night of Jan. 30, 2019, showed an increase of 32 percent in the homeless population since last year, with 2,165 homeless people in Lane County. Of those, one quarter reported substance use and one-third reported living with mental illness.
Lane County Homeless Point in Time’s full report, made in May 2019, can be found at:



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