By Meredith Melland
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
Winter, with its snowstorms and subzero temperatures, can cause added stress.
That can be especially difficult for families in crisis with young children.
And that’s where La Causa Crisis Nursery & Respite Center steps in.
Located in Walker’s Point at 522 W. Walker St., the center is a 12-bed shelter that provides free child care for children up to age 12. Children can stay for a few hours to up to three days when their families face a crisis.
A crisis can include homelessness, medical issues, domestic violence and other emergencies.
“They made me feel welcome and that the kids were well taken care of when they were there,” said Sonya Benford, a Milwaukee mother of five who used the crisis nursery’s services in 2023.
The crisis nursery and respite center is open 24 hours, seven days a week and has been a community resource for over 30 years.
‘Looking to help people’
La Causa Inc., the crisis nursery’s parent nonprofit, headquartered at 413 W. Scott St., has served Milwaukee’s South Side for over 50 years.
The center seeks to prevent child abuse and neglect and to help families by relieving some stress, said Karl Schoendorf, director of La Causa Crisis Nursery & Respite Center.
When Benford felt really stressed and sleep-deprived last spring, she took a family member’s recommendation to bring her four youngest children to the crisis nursery for about a day.
“From that first visit, I was able to see that they are genuine people that are looking to help people, and so I felt confident enough and comfortable to trust to be able to leave the kids there,” she said.
Most clients who use the crisis nursery are from the Milwaukee area and over 95% live below the poverty line, Schoendorf said.
“Poverty is a big stressor in folks’ lives, and then when anything else goes wrong, it just exacerbates it,”he said.
Crisis nursery served 470 kids in 2023
After operating at limited capacity in recent years because of COVID-19, the crisis nursery served more than 470 children and provided more than 1,600 overnight stays in 2023.
Staff work eight-hour shifts in the building that La Causa built about 10 years ago. They make sure kids get meals, baths, playtime and transportation to school.
Eileen Lozada, a child care worker at the center, loves working with the kids and recommends the center to overwhelmed parents.
“Even when I wasn’t even working here, I was giving out pamphlets,” she said.
Benford brought her three youngest kids back to the crisis nursery before she had surgery last year, and she said they were excited to return.
“I didn’t have to worry about getting up, and you know, struggling to put them in a tub, getting their stuff together and cooking,” she said.
For more information
To use the crisis nursery’s services, a parent can call 414-902-1620 or visit the nursery location.
Calling and scheduling ahead, if possible, is advised in case the center is at capacity.
The center does not accept foster children or children over 12. View more on its policies here.
Parents can also request respite care for their children once a month to deal with ongoing stress instead of a crisis.
How to support the crisis nursery
La Causa’s crisis nursery hosts fundraisers throughout the year to support its operations, including an annual summer gala.
It accepts donations of money, household supplies, diapers and more.
TMJ4’s Community Baby Shower donation drive through Jan. 31 also contributes to the crisis nursery.