Julie and Dennis Barratt, who run the group home at 413 Lafayette, have brought the words "group" and "home" to a whole new level. Although the house has existed since 1984, Julie and Dennis arrived 17 years ago. Julie began by filling in on weekends for the house manager and stepped into the job, when the third house manager left. The job of house manager is not for everyone and group homes often have a frequent turnover in staff. In addition to the long hours, you need to wear many hats—cook, nurse, therapist, instructor, friend, parent, advocate and personal shopper, to name a few. Julie and Dennis stepped into all of these roles and have added a few of their own.
There is a synergy among the residents that is unusual and rare for a group of 14 people living together. When you walk in, everyone is in the kitchen while Julie assembles quiches or tacos for 16 (they sometimes have visitors). Or in the afternoon you will find people harvesting vegetables in the garden with Dennis. Everyone is eager to incorporate the bounty, which has included potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, squash and peaches into their meals.
What is remarkable is how much the residents enjoy hanging out with each other and with Julie and Dennis. They rarely retreat to their rooms. Everyone congregates in the kitchen, or the yard, or the common room to help with chores, play karaoke or video games, or just chill.
Julie and Dennis usually work weekdays and travel to their camp in Jefferson, New Hampshire for the weekends. But they don't entirely leave the house, they often bring a few residents with them. Residents often join them for a weekend of swimming, campfires, hiking and maybe even a trip to Santa's Village.
Julie laughs when asked how do you run a household for 14 people. "It is just the right thing for us. We have worked a lot of years to create a family environment. We have worked on helping everyone to be supportive of their brothers and sisters and after years of promoting that I see the fruition"