Warming centers brace for demand from cold snap

EUGENE, Ore. - The calendar may say it is still fall, but Egan Warming Center managers say their program for the homeless is in full wintertime mode.

In November, around 300 people sought shelter on each night the centers were open.

Two winters ago, a record 350 people sought shelter at an Egan center.

With record cold temperatures and snow in the forecast this week, managers think they may see even higher demand.

"We're in a position now we'll have to play it by ear," said Terry McDonald, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul.

Tuesday's opening marks the second time this season the Egan centers have had to open.

"We had so many new people coming in, we had a lot more homeless that were showing up that it really became an issue on capacity," McDonald said.

It's an issue that likely will not go away.

"We were already at 100 percent capacity at our last activation before Thanksgiving, so it's just a critical time," said Rev. Dan Bryant at First Christian Church.

Eight churches and community centers make up the Egan shelter system, but not all are open the same nights.

McDonald said they need more centers and more volunteers.

"The real issue for us is that if this is a long activation and a very cold activation, then it will be stressful for all parties," he said.

Along with the need for volunteers, Bryant said they need more warm coats, blankets, mittens and more.