Shelter and Stability at St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center

by | Mar 2024

From left to right: Summer Ettesvold, Breanna Nichols, Jenelle Thorvilson

From left to right: Summer Ettesvold, Breanna Nichols, Jenelle Thorvilson. Photo: Chris Emeott

St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center is restoring hope and dignity to locals in need.

When a mother of two needed a place to live, she walked into St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center (CRC) and found hope. Welcomed with open arms, the mother and her preschool-aged children became guests of CRC and were offered more than temporary housing. “They’ve given me the comfort and assurance that I can believe in myself again,” the CRC guest says.

In 2011, St. Andrew’s Church in Mahtomedi took a bold step, launching CRC as a response to the growing housing insecurity in Washington County. CRC’s offerings include a family sheltering program, employment mentoring program, rental assistance and a free food market and clothing store. Staff receive up to 50 calls a day from families needing assistance and hundreds of calls each year from families seeking shelter.

CRC director Breanna Nichols says the crux of the issue is affordability. A lack of affordable housing in Washington County—coupled with rising food prices—can leave area families struggling to meet their basic needs.

To help families get back on their feet, CRC has two family shelters, one in Hugo and one in Oakdale. Guests are paired with a case manager, who helps them create a plan to reduce barriers and secure stable housing. “We’re striving for long-term stability and not a Band-Aid fix,” Nichols says. CRC helps more than 600 families a year. With 30 families living in the shelters, other guests receive rental assistance to protect them from being evicted.

Nichols says the most challenging part of her job is identifying the barriers guests encounter when looking for housing. “We can hit a lot of roadblocks, and there’s a lot of red tape,” Nichols says.

The aforementioned CRC guest has experience with these roadblocks. Her case manager is helping her work through a strict list of landlord requirements, so she can rent a home—previous addresses, credit score, pay stub and social security number. She was ready to give up, but says with a support system behind her, she has hope.

For families living paycheck to paycheck, it only takes one unexpected bill like an expensive car repair to cause a discouraging setback. This is a common issue for many Washington County residents because of the area’s longer-than-average commute times. Transportation complications lead to job absenteeism, which can result in housing insecurity.

Nichols and her team continue to respond to changing community needs. While they primarily serve families experiencing housing insecurity, Nichols says that they recently initiated a pilot program for senior rental assistance. “We are aware that there is a … need for more senior services as we see the baby boomer population is aging, so we need to adapt,” Nichols says.

Currently, residents of Washington County and north suburban Ramsey County are welcome to utilize the clothing distribution center and food pantry. “Anybody who comes in our front doors, single, family, old, young, doesn’t matter, we will serve them,” Nichols says.

St. Andrew’s CRC staff and volunteers are breaking down barriers and giving people in the White Bear Lake area hope. “Everybody deserves to feel love and dignity, and some of the best moments are when we see our guests have hope and pride and excitement—and bringing that back,” Nichols says.

How to Help

Donate: CRC is funded solely through grants and donations from the community. There is high demand for gently-used clothing and toiletry items, including full-sized shampoo, conditioner and lotion, and larger-sized diapers. For more information, visit

Volunteer: CRC is actively seeking volunteers to help with daily CRC operations, van driving (transporting guests to and from CRC) and the overnight shelter.

Participate: Join neighbors for a free community-wide, home-cooked meal every Thursday from 6–7 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Church.

To learn about more opportunities, call 651.762.9158.

St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center
900 Stillwater Road, Mahtomedi; 651.762.9124
Facebook: St. Andrew’s Community Resource Center
Instagram: @saintandrewsmn


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