Southern MN Crisis nursery file

Southern Minnesota Crisis Nursery board members Amber Collins (left), Sarah Mertz, Kim Hanson and Keshia Koch welcome guests to their open house in March 2017. The nursery provides a place for parents to bring their children on short notice if a crisis occurs. Both the crisis nursery and NUMAS Haus homeless shelter in New Ulm have been busy since opening within months of each other. File photo

NEW ULM — New Ulm's first crisis nursery and homeless shelter opened within months of each other in 2016 and 2017.

Although the Southern Minnesota Crisis Nursery and NUMAS Haus homeless shelter aren’t affiliated with each other, they both fill gaps for families in crisis.

Among the other characteristics they have in common? How busy they’ve been since opening their doors.

The two organizations provide different, but at times complementing, services. A crisis nursery provides short-term — 24 to 72 hours — child care for children up to age 12 when a parent needs it. Reasons for an intake range from an unexpected medical appointment to a domestic violence incident.

NUMAS Haus can house children as well, but only along with their parent or parents. It’s also a longer-term option, allowing clients to stay up to 90 days while helping them find permanent housing.

The shelter has had a waitlist for months while three families at a time stay there. The crisis nursery began in July and has since provided about 200 care days to 43 children, most of them coming in the most recent months.

Crisis nursery Director Evan Curtin said intakes have gone up month over month as more families find out about the service.

“It’s a unique service,” he said. “Our shelter based model where we take kids into our care, the only other place that has it in the state is Minneapolis.”

Recognizing the scarcity of its services, the crisis nursery has no geographical restrictions. Curtin said about half of all intakes come from the New Ulm area, with the rest coming from places like rural southern Minnesota and Mankato.

Amber Collins, board member for the nursery, said the usage they’ve seen came faster than the board initially expected.

“As a board we predicted it would take about six months to be utilized regularly, and to be honest we’re already there and it took two months,” she said.

Referrals can come through word of mouth, county human services or the NUMAS Haus. Karla Diehn, NUMAS Haus shelter coordinator, said referrals like these regularly happen.

“It’s nice to have that option so that I can let them know about it so they can bring their kids there when they can search for housing,” she said.

And the crisis nursery returns the favor to NUMAS Haus by referring them there when they encounter parents in need of housing. The partnership helps shield children from toxic, stressful situations, Curtin said, which can improve developmental outcomes.

Both resources have been largely funded by community donations so far. They’ll both start seeking grants soon, but donations and volunteers will continue to be in high demand. Even more so if intakes remain as high as they’ve been in recent months.

Diehn said the church community, which came up with the shelter idea, knew there was enough of a homeless issue in New Ulm to warrant the NUMAS Haus. A persistent wait list is making it even more evident to the rest of the community.

“It’s opened a lot of people’s eyes because more of them didn’t realize it was an issue,” she said.

For more information on volunteering at the Southern Minnesota Crisis Nursery or NUMAS Haus, visit www.smncrisisnursery.org or www.numashaus.org.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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