by Amber Fitch
For once I wish Egan wasn’t slammed every single time the end of an activation comes, and the weather conditions still suck.
Egan opens “when the overnight temperatures are projected to be below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.” I don’t know the exact method and I won’t pretend to, but it is across an average of multiple weather sources. I wholeheartedly believe that we could not measure the amounts of empathy and compassion that went into the decisions creating these activation guidelines, for all sides.
Any bits of positive info are welcome. Take into account more than the picture presented in front of you. I am in no way saying anyone’s feelings should not be honored, just asking to consider having an open mind all around.
Please sit down and look at the annual averages of temperatures of each day every season. Learn the guidelines for what they are now and what it would look like to change them. Consider how many more nights of activation would occur with even a few degrees of raising the guidelines for activating.
Then consider how insanely unsafe it is for skeleton crews of volunteers (many new to these experiences, as volunteer numbers have dropped tremendously post-COVID) to oversee and support overnight shelters with commonly upwards of 100 guests in an individual space—many with severe mental illness, heavy substance abuse, and having known all kinds of far-off and often very recent traumas that the average human has not experienced—and many times, is not even aware that such traumas exist.
I was an overnight lead for five evenings in November and two of the last three during the ice storm. On the third night, I got stuck in the ice and ended up being told to stay home and warm with my babies by the very people who are being slammed in social media posts saying Egan isn’t doing enough. They continued to do all they could and more to pull in help.
The nights I was present we had hardly any behavioral or medical leads, if any. This isn’t to shame anyone—it’s a lot to ask of someone. I’m the first to admit that. I’m grateful for my work experience and trainings. I’m grateful to have memories and to have known some seriously beautiful souls who deserved more in the end to keep reminding me that all we can do is keep trying. We’re all just people, trying to survive our own lives and trying to help. Some more than others, I’ll admit, but the negativity doesn’t help anyways (in my personal experience).
For all you naysayers, what has come of your negative energy and negative rants? Anything worth the energy you expended doing so? Please consider positive energy. Please consider sharing information at the very least to spread awareness to bring more people together to help more people:
- Advocate for more money to fund emergency solutions such as Egan; to fund staff when needed; to fund supplies.
- Come volunteer yourself. Be a part of it and see for yourself, just do what you can.
- Donate blankets, socks, gloves and hats. Put aside your clothes and shoes for donation and save them for dropping off labeled “FOR EGAN.” That’s all that anyone can truly ask of another: to just try in the ways they can.
- See the passion and all the love given by the few individuals who keep this program going year after year.
- Start speaking up at every given opportunity. Share what Egan is. Encourage your fellow humans to volunteer, to donate funds and supplies when they can, to simply spread awareness.
You would be shocked at what can occur when humans simply come together and choose kindness and grace for one another. This world sucks and there isn’t a single solid solution to fix it all. One good step in the right direction is always worth the effort in my opinion.
That’s all. If there are groups that believe there should be more nights open, then band together, find locations that will work with you or provide the locations, and link up to help out where there are gaps. Take action. It’s going to take more than one program, one person, one thought.
Show up to volunteer orientation between activations. Take part in area and online trauma trainings. And keep an open mind.
Talk to the younger ones in your life about becoming a part of the solution as they grow. If you volunteer, talk to them about why. Talk to them about the realities of mental health and substance abuse, about how everyone’s plate isn’t always the same and not everyone has the same supports in life. Talk to them about how even when they might have access to resources, they may not even be able to help themselves still.
Practice empathy and humility, lead with open-minded kindness and unconditional compassion on both ends of the board. Talk to everyone in your life about why you volunteer / donate / advocate / etc. If you feel passionate enough to rage on social media, use that energy—but maybe rather than shaming anyone after the fact or spouting off tips that are based in your opinion of the situation without any real insight into the reality of it in the moment, please: Please consider the people who do give all they can, to then sit and watch the social media warriors rage and go on about things that are not founded in truth.
It is no one’s job to volunteer, but it is always appreciated.
Egan isn’t politics, it isn’t personal opinion, it’s giving someone the decency of meeting their basic needs of shelter and a warm meal. Is it enough? No, but are any of our area services ever enough? This system is broken and it sucks and it is heartbreaking to watch but nothing will progress with individuals separately complaining and arguing behind a screen (myself included, and yes, I am not unaware of the irony there).
I do not for one have the solution, but I do know I’ll be there every time that is needed and I can make it happen.
Egan itself is not the enemy. And raging about how they’re not doing enough is not the solution here. Those are good people doing what they can.
And if you’ve never volunteered and you are able to help one of these activations for a shift, I personally beg you to please please please give it a try. See for yourself. One, I almost promise you one shift and your heart will never not know the pull again. Two, you more than likely will find a whole new perspective.
If you have volunteered or even wanted to and been unable to, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you! There is no other group I’ve encountered full of more light and unconditional love. I’m inspired every single time by my fellow volunteers.
Amber Fitch is a volunteer with Egan Warming Center. The next upcoming volunteer orientations are scheduled for Jan. 20, Jan. 23, and Feb. 8. For more information, see the Egan website at https://www.svdp.us/services/shelter-assistance/egan-warming-centers/.