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'People will die in this weather': Egan Warming Center gears up for the weather

FILE - Egan Warming Center (SBG photo)

FORECAST | Lows well below freezing this week

EUGENE, Ore. - Freezing overnight temperatures can be a matter of life or death for those living on the street, and as the number of unhoused individuals rises, local organizations work to keep them safe from the cold.

The Egan Warming Center has seven sites activated on Monday night for anyone unhoused and in need of overnight shelter.

Shelley Corteville, the Director of Egan Warming Center, says she's in the business of saving lives.

"People will die in this weather," said Corteville. "It's really, really cold out here - we're going to be pretty busy."

MORE | LCC Warming Center activated for Monday, Dec. 4

Any time the temperature drops below 30 degrees, the Egan sites open to those who need them. Last year, 1,677 individuals without a home stayed at their locations.

That's 731 more people than the year prior.

"It doesn't take much now to end up in a situation where you are no longer housed," said Corteville.

White Bird Clinic Administrative Coordinator Benjamin Brubaker sees it too.

"It's a national trend, it's a national issue. It's not just in Eugene," said Brubaker. "We know that a lot of folks that are unsheltered have absolutely no access to emergency shelter."

Their Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, CAHOOTS, transports people to Egan locations and keeps an eye out on those in the cold.

"We they have a warm dry spot, do they have the gear that's necessary to keep themselves warm?" asked Brubaker. "Are they appropriately dressed for the weather?"

For the hundreds of people on the streets of Eugene, they say it really doesn't take much.

"All it takes is one night where their gear malfunctions," said Brubaker. "Maybe their sleeping bag gets wet during the day and they're unable to get it dry enough."

So Cahoots vans carry extra blankets and clothes for people just in case. As for Corteville, she is expecting another busy year.

"I'm hearing out on the streets now that yes, there's a good possibility that our numbers could be pretty large again," said Corteville.

Egan Warming Center is on standby for the rest of the week, depending on the weather. They ask any trained volunteers to sign up for a shift. And if anyone is looking to become a volunteer, there is a training on Tuesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. at First Christian Church.

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