MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Stillwater is a city known for its beauty and quaintness. But few residents know about a major problem in the city.

Cindy Parsons, director of St. Croix Family Resource Center, says a study suggests one in eight teens in Washington County is experiencing or are at risk of experiencing homelessness.

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“Homelessness and youth homeless, all kinds of homelessness, is very hidden in Washington County,” Parsons said. “It’s everywhere.”

Stillwater High School Senior Bryan Gallichant has dealt with homelessness, and he is not alone.

“Just in that school alone, I know 15, 20 homeless youth, and that’s just in this school,” Gallichant said.

After a strained relationship at home, he was forced out with just a few bags of clothes.

“I would couch hop from like buddies’ houses and stuff like that, just to make sure that I wasn’t imposing too much on one family,” he said.

Bryan Gallichant (credit: CBS)

So he ended up at St. Paul Lutheran Church, at their new teen day shelter — a collaboration with St. Croix Family Resource Center. It’s called the Youth Connections Drop-in Center.

“A lot of people said they didn’t think there were any homeless people in Stillwater or in Washington County, and we knew differently,” said church council member Kevin Shoeberg.

Since the doors of the center opened at the beginning of the school year, they’ve had around a 100 visitors. They’re growing so many, they are about to double the program.

The day shelter is packed full of clothes, shoes and outerwear. There’s a place to wash clothes, and a game room for play. And the drop-in center is a place to do homework and get help making resumes and making life decisions. It’s a place Gallichant says is changing his life.

“I’m planning to go to North Carolina and hopefully go to UNC Charlotte to go get my master’s degree in accounting,” Gallichant said. “That wouldn’t have been possible without reconnecting with my grandparents, which the drop-in helped, like, pushed me to do. And getting a car, getting a job and everything else.”

The Youth Connections Drop-In Center is opening up a second site in Cottage Grove. Organizers hope more centers will open up and more affordable housing will become available.

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