'This road has a history. A man froze to death here'

'This road has a history. A man froze to death here' »Play Video
Major Thomas Egan froze to death on the streets of Eugene. His death inspired members of the community to organize warming shelters named in his honor.

EUGENE, Ore. - Snowy weather framed the scene as dozens gathered to honor Major Thomas Egan, a Vietnam veteran who froze to death on the streets of Eugene four years ago.

"For years we have come to this site in a somber occasion to remember Thomas Egan," said Doug Bales, director at the Egan Warming Center. "For me it is becoming a celebration of how community answered the call of one man's death."

The Army veterans body was found in 2008 on Blair Street.

"This road has a history," said Kate Sanders, who knew Egan. "A man froze to death here. The people of Eugene could have rewritten history and ignored it. They could have said it was a fluke and it would never happen again."

The Egan Warming Center - an affiliation of churches and other facilities across the area - came out of Egan's death to provide shelter for the homeless when temperatures drop below 30 F.

"We always really struggle with this because you really would like to bring people in," said Terry McDonald with St. Vincent de Paul, "but at the same time we have found it is best to stick to the rules."

McDonald said Egan's death sparked more than just the warming centers.

"Tthe county car parking program on the parks, expansion of the mission, expansion of the service station on 99, expanded programs for night shelter for families, more transitional housing and more affordable housing," he credited to Egan's memory.

Mayor Kitty Piercy reminded everyone those gathered Tuesday that although so much has been done to help those without a home, they have a long way to go.

"In the years since, we have seen the number of homeless people, individuals and families not decrease," the mayor said, "but grow by leaps and bounds."