Nathen Williams writes on a chalkboard at Jeremiah's Place. Photo by Amanda King

It could be for the new mom in town with no support system during an emergency. Or for the family with a deployed dad. Or for any family with children at risk for child abuse or simply without daycare help when they’re expected on the job. Now there is an option for for families in crisis who need daycare:  Jeremiah’s Place.

The city’s first crisis nursery opens its doors Monday, April 21 to provide short-term temporary day time care for up to 45 children from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“We know there’s a need,” says Jeremiah’s Place Executive Director LouAnn Ross. “Every week a child dies as a result of child abuse and very often it’s something that–if a parent just had a minute or if there was a more reliable child care choice–would not happen, particularly for kids under the age of six because they don’t have an outside network where they can rely on people.”

The crisis shelter, located at the Kingsley Association building in East Liberty, is part of the nonprofit organization, Jeremiah’s Place, that has 60 centers across the nation with some hitting the 30 year mark. The East Liberty location received their child care certificate and will be licensed as a residential facility capable of keeping children for up to 72 hours.

The 3,500 square-foot space is loaded with mostly donated items including 715 pairs of pajamas from WYEP 91.3’s Holiday Hootenanny & Pajama Jam event, 4moms infant rockaRoos, and furniture from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Jeremiah’s Place has an infant space, changing station, a toddler play area, three bedrooms including 12 beds and cribs, and a cozy reading area with a Fred Rogers quote scrolled on a chalkboard wall.

The cuddle area at Jeremiah’s Place in East Liberty/Photo by Amanda King
The cuddle area at Jeremiah’s Place in East Liberty/Photo by Amanda King

“We really want it to be a home away from home,” says Ross.

“And, this is the place where you can make a mess,” says Ross pointing to a space with miniature tables and chairs on a tiled floor noting that kids can eat, paint, or play here.

Photo by Amanda King

Each child is given a new pair of pajamas upon their stay, a backpack filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, a book and blanket.

“Many kids are going to come here with absolutely nothing because it’s going to be in the middle of a crisis,” says Ross. “They may have to stay for three days, but they won’t have a suitcase.”

Ross wants them to go home with these things, noting that when she was a school teacher, children told her they slept in their coats because they didn’t have blankets. She doesn’t want the same situation for children coming through Jeremiah’s Place.

The center is conveniently located next to the Kinglsey Community Center, giving them access to the gymnasium twice daily for exercise for the kids.

“To come to a community center, it already feels safe and nonthreatening,” says child advocate Eileen Sharbaugh who was instrumental part in creating Jeremiah’s Place.

Sharbaugh says it was important to be on the Port Authority bus line, one advantage to the East Liberty location. Taxi vouchers are provided for families living outside the area.

Parents don’t need to bring anything for the children, Ross says, not even a a packed lunch.

Overnight care could be available by May 1. Families who need care don’t need to be referred. They can simply call Jeremiah’s Place at (412) 924-0726 in order for the nonprofit to be prepared for their child’s stay. E-mail for more information. Location:  6435 Frankstown Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15206.

Amanda King

Amanda King is a freelance multimedia journalist whose work can be seen on MSNBC.COM and a number of local publications, from the Post-Gazette to the Beaver County Times. A former journalist for the Bucks...