MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Helping the homeless in Minnesota’s dangerously cold temperatures this week is a matter of life and death.

In Washington County, there are more resources for families with kids then there are for singles. However, a Mahtomedi church is rising to the challenge to help those who have been living in their cars at a rest stop on Interstate 94.

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St. Andrew’s Church has a long-term track record running homeless shelter for families in Oakdale and Hugo. This week they got a call from Washington County looking for help for single people who are homeless.

Within 24 hours, St. Andrew’s set up a warming center, local restaurants donated food, and the gym became a sleeping area.

“It’s everyone coming together to make this happen,” St. Andrews Executive Director Jenny Mason said.

Reyn Waldvogel and Steve Martin had been living in a car at the rest stop off of I-94 in West Lakeland.

“At the morning we would wake up and there would be frost pretty much ice on the windows,” Martin said.

At the shelter, the couple got new clothes from the church’s free shop and the pastor has volunteered to marry them.

“That is what they are doing, they are getting the chapel ready for us,” Waldvogel said.

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“We needed a warm place to stay we had no idea how much they would help us out,” Martin said.

WCCO spoke with another couple who was also living in their car at the same rest stop. They too came to St. Andrews shelter.

“It’s just been a godsend. They have just been angels,” Melissa Maxwell said.

Washington County social worker Allison Kier visits the large numbers of homeless at the rest stop regularly. Kier said,

“It varies each week. I have encountered seven to over 30,” Kier said.

She says despite her warnings about the weather, some opted to stay at the rest stop.

“I have to respect that their car is their home and none of us want to be removed from our homes,” Kier said.

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Right now, the shelter is scheduled to stay open through the end of the cold snap. St. Andrew’s and Washington County are working to help the people here find long term shelter and additional resources.

Esme Murphy