Homeless warming center not ready for first freeze of fall: 'This one kind of took us by surprise'

      EUGENE, Ore. - As the first freeze of the season moves in to the Willamette Valley overnight Monday, the area's homeless are left without one resource they usually depend on in cold months of the year: the Egan Warming Center.

      St. Vincent de Paul's Egan Warming Center program is not ready for the upcoming cold season yet, said Associate Executive Director Charley Harvey.

      "We have had early freezes before, but this one kind of took us by surprise," Harvey said.

      Harvey said St. Vincent's begins the Egan Warming Center program on November 15, usually when the first freezing nights of the season are forecasted to arrive.

      "We haven't trained the volunteers yet, and we actually lost one church this year," he said. "We are looking for a possible new site to replace the center we no longer have."

      Harvey said it is a common misconception that the warming centers automatically open when the temperature drops below 29 degrees F.

      Paul Cooper, a homeless man living in Eugene, said he believed that when the weather turned cold, warming centers automatically opened and "knew what to do."

      "It's something I depend on," Cooper said.

      Cooper said he understood why the warming centers he uses will not be open, but hopes that future cold weather holds off until the program is up and running.

      Meanwhile at Whoville Camp Number 9, the protest for homeless rights continues.

      "We've been putting more people in to one tent," said Tin Man, spokesman for the camp. "We can't even legally have a fire unless we're using it to cook."

      The question many are asking Monday is will Mother Nature do what police, city officials and county commissioners have been unable to do all summer: cause the protesters to move out of their current site.

      "They are hoping Mother Nature will do their job for them, but we aren't moving," Tin Man said. "We want them to deal with us, and recognize that we are here to stay."

      Tin Man said Whoville Camp No. 9 is in a unique place in that protesters are blocked from the North and West winds because they are backed up to the Motel 66 and its two story walls.

      "We have a barrier that helps us out, but it's still cold," he said.

      Protesters hope a resolution will come out of Monday night's Eugene City Council meeting where a proposed rest-stop-like area is being proposed for all campers.

      In the meantime, the protesters said they are ready for the first hard freeze of the year.