EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- A lifeline for the homeless in Lane County is preparing to reopen for the winter with new goals and a need for more help.
Egan Warming Center staff spent Saturday, October 27 training the first round of volunteers for the winter and they’re looking for more.
The warming centers have only been running since 2008 as a refuge for the homeless during freezing weather. But in the last four years, the service has grown tremendously.
Volunteers are expecting to serve more than 4,500 overnight stays and more than 9,000 meals this season.
“We're really concerned because we see the homeless population has grown. We see that there's a lot more people in tents on the river," says Doug Bales, Volunteer Coordinator for the Egan Warming Centers. We see that there's going to be a lot more demands. We fear that we're going to be overwhelmed early in the season so we're looking for more volunteers."
The warming centers open up when temperatures drop below 30 degrees. Egan volunteers are planning on opening two new sites in the Eugene-Springfield area this year as well, including one incentive site. That site will house the best-behaved Egan users, offering a fireplace and a movie screening.
As the program grows, it's trying to offer more and different help to the unhoused.
"We think we can open two or three more sites but we need those volunteers to step up. We also are hoping we can get donations of gear, sleeping bags, blankets, socks, underwear, cash donations - everything helps to get these people geared up early in the winter for the season,” says Doug Bales, the volunteer coordinator for the Egan Warming Center.
One new thing this year is at the primary downtown site, First Christian Church on Oak Street. The church replaced the carpet with tile specifically with Egan in mind.
Coordinators say they especially need gear for homeless campers this year, as there was a cancellation of the one-day Project Homeless Connect service event in 2012.
If you're interested in volunteering for the Egan Warming Center this season, you can sign up online. There are five more warming center training sessions through November. Click the following link for more information: http://www.eganwarmingcenter.com/