With comfortable seating, friendly, warm conversations, board games and food ready to snack on, Judy’s House provides county residents a place to go when they simply need a place to feel heard and loved — it’s essentially a “grandma’s house;” a place to seek out those real, human connections, and Judy’s House organizers are thrilled with it’s potential.
“Feeling lonely, bored at home, cannot connect with family, friends or anyone in the community? Having trouble meeting people because of isolation or anxiety? New to the community and want to make connections,” asked the Judy’s House flier. “We are here to listen.”
Greeted with a “Hello Sunshine” welcome mat, visitors to Judy’s House, an after hours peer-run drop-in center and warm line, don’t even need to ring the doorbell before entering the 810 Nevada St. location; but they’ll often be greeted by director Cheri Farrell or one of the peers before they have a chance to sign their name in the guest book.
Judy’s House doesn’t want to bombard visitors with paperwork, or make it feel stuffy or overbearing. They simply wanted an after hours place where those in the community who want to talk to anyone have a place to go. So, from 4 p.m. to midnight every single day of the year, if someone is feeling overwhelmed, lonely, in need of adult conversation or for any reason, they are welcome. Visitors must be at least 18 years old, but parents can bring their children.
“They don’t have to have a reason to come,” said Farrell. “If they just want to come and sit down, they don’t even have to talk … it’s for people who want to connect and don’t know where to connect.”
If guests cannot make it to Judy’s House, they can call the warm line at 250-2797, which will be answered from 4 p.m. to midnight by a friendly voice.
The idea for an after hours drop in center stemmed from a common occurrence of people sometimes going to the emergency room or having a crisis situation when all they needed was someone to talk to, according to Behavioral Health Director Tiffany Armstrong.
Many county resources where people can go often close at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., and after hours, there was a spike in people seeking help, but no county organization open to visit.
Armstrong came up with the general idea of having an after hours drop in center and warm line with Lassen County Public Health and Social Services Director Barbara Longo using Mental Health Services Acts funding. Then, they sent out the call, requesting someone to take over the project.
Once Farrell shared her vision with Armstrong and Longo, they knew it was a perfect fit.
Even the Nevada Street house is a perfect fit for the focus of the program.
According to Farrell, Judy, the former owner of the home, passed away alone. She was plagued with the stigma of mental health and didn’t want people to look at her differently — now, her home can serve as a haven for people seeking connections and breaking stigmas.
Each day, there are two or three volunteers there to help around the house and be a friendly face to visitors, along with some paid staff there for the full eight-hour day. Those working there, though, are just regular people looking to connect with others, and share their own experiences, play games or just sit across from one another in silence, if the visitors wish.
“If they can just find themselves here, they can play a game, meet people or have quiet time,” said Longo. “For some people, this might be the only connection they have.”
According to Longo, they are also working on being able to provide access to TeleHealth in order for visitors to get help should they need it.
Armstrong hopes Judy’s House will serve as an opportunity for people to break away from the social disconnect that comes from social media.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to focus on folks who feel like there’s not a place for them,” said Armstrong. “If this is an opportunity to engage people back in our community, it’s better in the long run.”
She also shared she hopes Judy’s House will help free up law enforcement from having to respond to crisis calls that could potentially be prevented. She also shared if Judy’s House could prevent just one suicide, it would be a success and she would have done her job.
Already, Farrell, Armstrong and Longo are pleased with the results.
“I truly feel this will fill a need in our community that has not been addressed ever,” said Armstrong. “We want anyone and everyone to attend: Moms, dads, single parents, grandparents, anyone living in the community.”
Judy’s House had a soft opening July 1 and is already accepting visitors. The grand opening will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, with a ribbon cutting, stories from Judy’s House namesake’s family and light refreshments.
Walking into 810 Nevada St., originally built in 1900, Judy’s House visitors can visit in the front sitting room with a view of the front yard, play board games or relax and watch TV, connect to wifi or chat in the plush seating in the calming salmon pink colored living room.
If they want a quiet place, they can take a breather in the quiet room and watch TV or have a barbecue and relax in the “oasis” like area in the back yard.
The neighboring deer provide a calming view, Farrell said.
Last week, shortly after Judy’s House opened for the day, a bowl of fruit was placed on the kitchen table and a fresh pot of coffee was brewing for guests.
“It’s just a house,” Farrell said, emphasizing she wants it to be just like someone is visiting their own grandma. “We just want it to be super welcoming.”
No one needs a reason to visit Judy’s House, but if one finds themselves seeking a friendly conversation, from 4 p.m. to midnight, they have a place to go — no phone call first or knocking on the door required. Just like grandma’s house, Farrell said, they can walk right in.
Want to help?
Judy’s House is still young, only having been open for about a month, and the program is seeking volunteers.
There are no requirements to volunteer, just a completed application and everyone is welcome to help this new program.
To learn more, email Judy’s House at [email protected].