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“Never Again” Succeeded — Again

April 27th, 2022 by dk

Newspeople don’t do a very good job of telling readers and viewers what didn’t happen. No one stops to notice that hundreds of airplanes landed safely at the Eugene Airport each week until one plane crashes. Thousands of people order hot coffee every day, which they don’t spill and burn themselves, starting a lawsuit. That’s not news.

Now that springtime is definitely upon us, I can share with you this tidbit of non-news. The Thomas Egan Warming Centers activated for its 13th winter. 454 volunteers filled 1725 shifts over 13 nights, helping 744 unique residents weather another Oregon winter.

What’s most significant, if not newsworthy, is what didn’t happen this winter, in honor of Capt. Thomas Egan, for whom it did. No one (that we know of) died from exposure in the cold. No passerby discovered a frozen corpse near the railroad tracks, as happened when Egan’s fate was uncovered from the melting snow, a week before Christmas in 2008.

Tim Black, St. Vincent de Paul’s Winter Strategy and Emergency Response Coordinator, noted another significant “zero” achievement. Despite a cold snap that stretched five days between Christmas to New Years, this community’s volunteer response always met the need. Number of people seeking shelter this winter who were turned away because the system had reached its capacity: Zero.

I’ve never lived among people who proclaimed with more clarity, “Never again!” Churches, civic leaders, and service agencies assembled a plan with fierce urgency to save lives after Egan lost his. The warming centers were given his name, better to remind us what we’ve pledged will happen never again.

Zero deaths from the cold this winter (that we know of) — Eugene and Springfield should be proud of that.

The case can be made more accurately next winter. Lane County Coroners’ Office should add a checkbox to the death certification form they submit for every death. Lane is one of only two Oregon counties that doesn’t notate when a person who died had no known address.

“Death by exposure” is a difficult category to adjudicate. The Coroner’s hesitancy is understandable. Those without homes usually die from other causes. Annette Montero didn’t die from exposure. It was a warm August night in 2019 when she slept too close to a downtown Dumpster. A garbage truck killed her instantly in her sleeping bag.

The coroners’ office need only denote when the person died with no known address — nothing more. Our government officials lack the resources to tabulate and analyze these deaths, as they do in the Portland area. Fair enough. Adding the box will itself mark progress. 

Our government wants to avoid political controversies. Understood. Activists will gladly look for patterns in the public record for free. Just give them that chance.

Less urgent moments like now are when we should be refining our systems and responses. With some tweaks implemented now, the next winter can pose even less of a threat to our community. The work continues. Next spring I’d like to report that no one nearby died from exposure, but without the parenthetical caveat “(that we know of)”.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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