Around 40 people gathered Tuesday evening at the Park Blocks for the National Homeless Persons Memorial Day candlelight vigil, put on locally by the Eugene Human Rights Commission. The event which takes place annually on Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, is a time where folks can honor the lives of the unhoused community members that died. Representatives from different homeless aid groups spoke along with folks that were impacted by the deaths of these people. In addition Eugene Community Fridge, Burrito Brigade, and Black Thistle Street Aid.
The first speaker of the event was a representative from the Egan Warming Center. The Egan Warming Center is a program, staffed mostly by volunteers, that opens up shelters in Eugene/Springfield on nights where it is forecasted to dip below 30° F. Egan aims to be a low barrier shelter.
Currently operating sites for adults at the Lane Events Center and Episcopal Church-St John in Springfield. Egan also operate a site for those aged 18 and under at First United Methodist Church. They are scheduled to hold a volunteer orientation on Thursday, January 6, from 6:30-8:30 PM. They also accept donations of warm clothing, sleeping bags, and tents at St. Vincent de Paul donation sites where it is marked for Egan Warming Center.
Organizers then opened up the mic for audience members to speak about people close to them that they lost. One individual came up to speak about their brother Jim who died three years ago. A nurse in the emergency department spoke about the numerous people that come through their, and some dying. Including Thomas Perkalis who died on Dec. 6. Another individual spoke about an unhoused individual they would see often and helped that passed away in 2020.
The Event was ended with Bridgette, an outreach worker with Black Thistle Street Aid, sharing her thoughts and names of unhoused individuals that died in 2021.
“One life lost is one too many to lose to these streets and it is increasingly likely that in the coming weeks, with the freezing weather, more lives will be lost. And the City [of Eugene] will continue its coordinated crusade of displacement, destruction, and confiscation of personal property that causes irreparable harm and trauma for the people involved,” Bridgette said.
Below is a list compiled by Black Thistle Street Aid, and was read at the event, of the unhoused people in Eugene & Springfield that they have identified that died in 2021. The names were collected mostly from conversations with those that knew them. Starting January 1, with the passage of Oregon Senate Bill 850 that requires medical examiners to list the status of housing on death reports, we will get a better picture of unhoused individuals that died.
- Ivory McCuen: was found in a severely hypothermic state in a parking lot near West 17th and Chambers Street died en route to the hospital.
- Kristi Schmidt: found at a motel in Springfield at the age of 47.
- Hazel Dai: at 49 years old
- Douglas James Hanson: died at an encampment in the Glenwood area.
- Kim Repp: at the age of 60, she was living in WJ park.
- Eugene Winters: Found dead in the Willamette River near Skinner Butte Park. He had been awaiting admittance into housing at The Commons on MLK. He was 59.
- Davie Scott Hanes: in Springfield at the age of 55.
- Lisa Ann Fowler: in Eugene at the age of 54.
- Deborah “Debbie” Plum: in Eugene at the age of 69.
- Chuck Rintalin: died in Eugene at the age of 62.
- Rodney Heckathorn: died during the heatwave near WJ. He was 61.
- Sarah Fallingwater: in Eugene. She was 45 years old.
- Shandee Franke
- Jimmy Clark
- Anthony Pietrafitta
- JJ died by suicide at his encampment in West Eugene.
- Lane Davis
- Robert “Montana” Lepper
- Irish Paul
- Mark Corbitt found by medical outreach under a collapsed tent too weak to move. He died of sepsis at the hospital. 58 years old
- Jack Edwin Hill
- Jeremy D
- Kelsey Hope
- Leslie Shoemaker
- Tamara Hickling
- Cindy Chance: 56yrs old
- Shawn Martin
- Thomas Perkalis
- Unknown man: died of exposure at a bus stop on Hwy 99.