Homeless say warming centers safer than Occupy camp.
Whether just passing through or staying in Eugene for the long haul, several homeless people using the Egan Warming Center system Thursday night said they were glad to have the service during frigid weather, and vastly prefer the option to staying at the Occupy Eugene encampment.
Settling down at First Christian Church in downtown Eugene, couple David Aber and Cheryl Marquez said they feel much safer staying at one of the Egan Warming Center sites - five churches and a youth organization scattered across Eugene, Springfield and Veneta - than at Occupy Eugene, the coalition of anti-Wall Street protesters whose tent city at Washington-Jefferson Park has morphed into a makeshift community for many homeless people.
Aber, 56, said he and Marquez would personally rather stay out by themselves, away from other people, than in the crowded confines of Occupy Eugene.
Aber also said that, when at one of the Egan centers, he is confident he won't be harassed.
"I can rest and get a full night's sleep without worrying about someone walking up on me," Aber said. "It's a secure spot and I can't say thanks enough that this place is here."
Aber got the chance for only the third time this year - the Egan centers open only when there's a consensus among forecasters that the overnight temperature will drop into the 20s. As of 10 p.m. Thursday, the centers were leaning against reopening tonight, with lows expected around 30.
A man at the First Christian Church site who identified himself as Julian said he, likewise, has had trouble sleeping in the Occupy Eugene encampment. When the Egan centers aren't open, he prefers to sleep in the Glenwood neighborhood, he said.
"I stayed (at Occupy Eugene) on Thanksgiving," he said. "I couldn't get to sleep. I woke up a few times; there was yelling and screaming, cars honking, dogs barking."
Another man at the church site, 32-year-old Jeff Maddox, said he worries about thievery at the Occupy Eugene venue and believes the encampment should be shut down.
Since arriving in Eugene a year ago to attend Lane Community College, Maddox said he's turned to alcohol to medicate what he described as auditory hallucinations. "I panhandle all day to get enough beer to put them down," he said.
In its first two nights of operation in November, the Egan centers provided 259 beds and 588 meals to homeless people. While no estimates were immediately available on Thursday, a steady stream of people in need of a bed and bowl of soup were flowing into the First Christian site after 8 p.m.
Volunteer Jim Wood said that's what Egan - which is named for a homeless man who died in Eugene several winters ago - is all about.
"It gets really cold, we're not going to turn them away," Wood said. "We're here to get people off the street so they don't freeze to death."
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|Title Annotation:||Local News; Many were grateful that the Egan Warming Center system kicked into gear Thursday night|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Dec 9, 2011|
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