EUGENE, Ore. -- Around 175 homeless guests took shelter from the cold Monday night as the Egan Warming Centers opened their doors for the first time this season.
Warming center volunteers said that temperatures as temperatures start dropping on Tuesday the doors will open to the homeless at the six Egan Warming Centers around Eugene and Springfield.
One guest said that the warming centers have saved the lives of his two dogs, as well as his own.
Paul Burton told KVAL's Tom Adams that it was a cold New Years morning for his pooch named "Ricky Rocket", even though he had a sweater on.
"We high-tailed it over here and heard it was going to be 27 degrees," says Ricky's owner, Paul Burton.
The warming center provided shelter for Paul, Ricky and Burton's other furry kid, named Chuck E. Cheese.
"They are my boys; they are my life," explains Burton.
Thanks to a new season for the Egan Warming Centers, a program of Saint Vincent de Paul, Burton brought his dogs inside with the 77 other guests in the basement of the First Christian Church on Monday.
Burton said that he was moved by the opening of the center.
"I just, I stay up hours just kind of thinking about it, thanking God for the opportunity," Paul said.
Yesterday marked the start of the fourth winter season for the Egan Warming Centers. Six churches in the network open their doors to the homeless if the temperature dips below 30 degrees.
Shelter director Doug Bales said that a staff of over 100 volunteers run the centers that provide warm food, shelter and clothing for people who need hope.
"These are the mats that our guests sleep on," said Bales. "The homeless are wearing a lot higher quality coats and gloves and socks and underwear, again due to the generosity of this community."
Bales said that other cities around the world have called him, asking how they can start a similar program. Doug said that he is surprised with how well the program has taken off.
"I don't think anyone did. It's kind of a miracle, but everything about this program really is a miracle," said Bales.
Director Bales with six churches in the system, the Egan Centers could handle nearly 600 guests on the coldest nights this winter.