Halfway House and Sober Living Homes: A Behind the Scenes Look


Terms like “halfway house”, “sober living house” and “recovery residence” are thrown around all the time and the reality is, most people are confused by the terminology and don’t know what they are.  Furthermore, what exactly is a “halfway house” and is it really conducive to healthy, sober living?  Are recovery residences the same or are some better than others?  This article explores what goes on at a half way house, requirements to get in and whether or not sober living housing is a valuable tool in one’s recovery from drug addiction.

What is a Halfway House?

Halfway HouseGenerally speaking, Halfway Houses are transitional residential living places for those in recovery from heroin, opiates, drugs or alcohol.  Due to certain legal requirements in certain states, the term “sober living house” is used and preferred.  For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, a halfway house is often defined as a structured residential treatment center whereas in the state of Florida it often refers to a place of residence following initial treatment that promotes healthy living and recovery.  Hence the term “Sober Living House” or “Recovery Residence” is often used to describe a place of transitional living that promotes clean, drug free living.

Over the last decade and with the help with several reputable recovery based organizations, the addiction and recovery “industry” has evolved to become far more professional and intentional in it’s language.  Thus, what was once referred to as a halfway house, a three-quarter house, transitional house or sober living home now falls under the heading of recovery residence

Who is Well Suited for a Halfway House or Sober Living House?

Many people go to halfway houses / sober living homes from addiction treatment centers.  Others go right from prison, a homeless environment or by court order.  Some go there to be in a sober and clean environment to begin the recovery process.

What are the Requirements to Live in a Halfway House?

Most halfway houses require residents to be clean and sober and to pass drug screening tests and/or a breathalyzer.  Most halfway houses aren’t equipped to deal with drug or heroin withdrawal symptoms or DT’s (Delirium tremens) associated with severe alcohol withdrawal.  Those who can’t pass these tests are better candidates for quality care at a top notch addiction treatment center or drug rehab facility.

How a Halfway House is Managed

Suboxone replacing one addiction with anotherA halfway house / sober living home / recovery residence is often ran and managed by people who lived in one at some point in the past.  Halfway houses or recover residences accommodate either men or women and unfortunately, sometimes both. Furthermore, they often take people in recovery from drugs and alcohol.  In other words, there is not a separate sober living house for recovering heroin addicts and another for recovering alcoholics.  Simply put, it isn’t affordable or economically friendly to create distinct halfway houses for those based on their object of addiction.

In order to achieve optimal results, sober living residents are required to attend either Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (AA) depending on their “object of addiction”.  It is said that a person who is addicted to alcohol is better suited for AA and someone addicted to heroin or other drugs is an optimal candidate for NA however, we have found that success really depends on preference.  Some recovering heroin addicts prefer AA for their own reasons and vice versa.

Most halfway houses accommodate residents from 6 months up to 2 years based on perpetual sobriety and clean time.

Are Co-ed Halfway Houses a Good Idea?

Co-ed halfway houses do seem to exist but for the most part are ill-advised for many reasons.   Long story short, those in the early days of recovery need to focus on self-exploration and reinventing themselves.  We are not suggesting that all couples end their relationships but a recovering addict needs time and space to heal, grow and become independent.  Codependence is the nature of addiction and relationships easily feed into that kind of mentality.

How to Choose a Halfway House

We strongly encourage those considering entering into a recovery residence / halfway house to thoroughly research those they are considering.  Our free drug addiction and recovery forum is a great place for suffering and recovering addicts to write reviews and share their experiences good or bad about addiction treatment center, drug rehabs, halfway houses and more.  Thus, you are encouraged to use the “search” feature to see what people are saying about a particular sober living house or write your own review.   It is also advised to ask about sober living homes with good reputations at local AA or NA meetings or even check with a well respected addiction treatment center, such as those recommended by this community.  View our standards for recommending drug rehab facilities.

Halfway houses with a live-in manager are generally better choices than those without.  Moreover, some sober living homes possess a democratic process, in which residents of the home can choose who will coordinate or manage the residence.

Halfway House Rules: Follow the Rules or Be Kicked Out

How to Choose a Halfway HouseUp until this point, a halfway house and/or recovery residence doesn’t sound like anything much more than finding an apartment and living with roommates.  However, in order for a recovery residence to achieve it’s goal, which is to promote ongoing recovery, rules must be set and followed.  The most vital rule of all good halfway houses is to stay clean and sober, which is to abstain from all drugs and alcohol.  Moreover, attending AA or NA meetings is required.

Halfway houses suggest attending a number of meetings in order to feed your recovery and starve the addiction that lives within.  It’s also advised to be on the look out at meetings for people who would make good role models for you. Obtaining a sponsor, someone experienced of the same sex that you select to help you walk through the steps and stay in recovery is highly recommended.  Surrounding yourself with those with a lot of clean time and/or those strong in their resolve are the best people to interact and surround yourself with.

Most sober living homes take random alcohol and drug tests and will expel those who cannot pass. If the halfway house you are considering doesn’t have such a policy, look elsewhere.  You must also pay the agreed on price in a timely manner to avoid being kicked out.  In recovery, we are self-supporting and must begin using the tools and skills we were equipped with while in treatment, especially if you’ve attended a quality drug rehab facility and program.  Find out what is expected of you and do it.  This includes cleaning and straightening up after yourself, making your bed and keeping things tidy.  Some halfway houses have curfews.

About the Owners of Halfway Houses

Those who open a halfway house should be passionate about helping people conquer their addiction.  It’s not a “get rich quick” scheme.  Opening a halfway house can be done with little or no money and various grant and loans to get a sober living home started are available.  Halfway houses can be located anywhere including in “good” neighborhoods.  It is unlawful to discriminate against residents of hallway houses and/or those who operate them.  In fact, the Supreme Court has rules that recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are a protected class of individuals under the handicapped provisions of the Federal Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988.

But just because the owner of a halfway house should possess the above characteristics and desire to help people doesn’t mean they do.  Thus, finding a good quality halfway house will take some research and time.

4 Levels of Care at Recovery Residences

There are 4 distinct levels of care found in halfway houses.

Level 1: Peer Run Recovery Residence

How to Choose the Right Sober Living Home After TreatmentA level 1 peer run recovery residence or halfway house is often referred to as “sober homes” and are most often found in single family residences.  Residents are self-monitoring and accountable to each other.  The primary criteria for a level 1 recovery residence is a desire and willingness to be abstinent of mind altering substances.    AA / NA / 12 Step program support services are either encouraged or required.  Weekly house meetings are standard and required.  While there is no paid staff at this level, there is usually some kind of overseeing operator who facilitates admissions and discharges and is available if any house related issues can’t be resolved internally.

This particular level of care is typically more affordable and length of stay varies and is open ended.  This level of support is typically best for those who are further along and/or more mature in their recovery.

Level 2: Monitored Recovery Residence

Level 2 or monitored recovery residences / halfway houses are supervised by a senior resident, house manger or staff member.  The staff member monitors operations and residences and enforces structure within the household.  The sober living environment can be any type of dwelling but commonly is a single family residence with shared bedrooms.  This option is cost effective and length of stay varies and is open-ended.  Some degree of support is offered in-house in collaboration with other recovery service providers such as outpatient therapy.  Some level 2 monitored recovery residences offer in-house support groups.

Level 2 support halfway housing is best suited for recovering individuals with at least some intrinsic motivation would benefit from minimal structure and support.

Level 3: Supervised Recovery Residence

Level 3 supervised recovery residences / halfway houses provide an increased level of structure and oversight, often utilizing a clinical component of some kind such as outpatient or aftercare services from a recovery program/service that works in collaboration with the halfway house.  Level 3 offers life and skill oriented support either in-house or in association with another recovery program/service provider.  Guidance is provided for each individual’s development of life skill and recovery sustaining activities.  This includes assistance with finding gainful employment, self-help, physical health check-ups, etc.  The type of residence varies from an individual dwelling, an apartment or townhouses or even a larger dorm like environment.

Level 3 is ideal for the recovering individual who needs a high degree of structure and support.  this includes those coming immediately out of a stabilizing residential addiction treatment center / drug rehab facility.  The cost for level 3 support is higher due to al the support based resources.

Level 4: Service Provider Recovery Residence


Level 4 service provider recovery residences / halfway houses are the most sophisticated and provides a high level of support and care.  They are often directly associated with or attached to a licensed treatment provider and overseen by an accredited treatment center or qualified management team.  Level 4 halfway houses are characterized by a high degree of daily structure and licensed staff members provide in-house programs and services.

The average stay at level 4 residential facilities ranges from several weeks to several months depending on the need of the individual.  Emphasis is placed on teaching and equipping the recovering individual for more independent living, whether it be at a lower level halfway house or going out on their own.

Fees and demographics for this level of care vary but is often more expensive than other levels of halfway house care.  The good news is however, private insurance typically covers or provides reimbursement for this level of care.  This high level of care is most appropriate for someone brand new to the recovery process and/or needing life/skill development.

Not All Halfway Houses are Created Equal

Like addiction treatment centers, a halfway house is only as good as it’s staff.  Due to the poor reputation of certain operations and heroin and/or drug overdoses that occur there, the term “halfway house” is often accompanied by some stigma.  RJ Vied, recovering addict and Director of Public Relations at recommended drug rehab Reliance Treatment Center of North Palm Beach, Florida explains some of what goes on behind the scenes at some halfway house residences.  View “Knowing the Full Story of a Halfway House” to learn more.




Written and Published By,

William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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