What is a Halfway House?

halfway house

What happens when you are fully committed to a sober lifestyle, but you are still not ready for a full transition to life at home? It could be due to many reasons; enabling or a triggering environment at home, lack of a support system or just the need to have more time to prepare for integration back into normal life. If you are in these shoes, then a halfway house will be a great option for you.

What is a Halfway House?

A halfway house is a residential facility intended to help people transition into independent living. It is simply a transitional living facility to assist people recovering from drugs and alcohol. Halfway houses were envisioned to be “halfway” points between the restrictive environment of rehab and total independence of home.

Some halfway houses take in homeless people or those with psychiatric issues, but a good majority focuses on recovery from substance abuse issues. So, the term is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘sober living house.’ A halfway house offers support to people entering recovery, and who are committed to an addiction-free life.

Lack of a stable, alcohol and drug free living environment can be a serious hindrance to sustained abstinence. Negative living environments can upset recovery even for decidedly motivated individuals. Sober living houses (SLHs) are alcohol and drug free living environments for individuals attempting to abstain from alcohol and drugs.

What are Halfway Houses Used For?

Initially, they were developed as drug-free living settings for people who had accomplished residential treatment. Overtime, their use has broadened to include people just released from prison or in a homeless situation. Others go there to commence their recovery journey. And now, some people are putting up in halfway houses because of court orders.

Since halfway houses can serve different functions, the term can be used to describe a couple of transitional living environments that help people re-enter society. When halfway houses assist people out of prison, they are called “residential re-entry centers” (RRCs). When the houses serve non-offenders, they become “sober living houses” (SLHs) to shun stigma. From these definitions, a halfway house can take many forms or terms including:

  • Sober living homes
  • Sober living environments
  • Sober or dry houses
  • Recovery residences
  • Transitional living environments
  • Community-based residential facilities
  • Residential re-entry centers
  • Community release centers

Requirements for Admission to a Halfway House

Halfway houses are appropriate for people that have already gotten through a medical detox and have finished an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Most halfway houses demand that members remain sober while living there. Therefore, people that are committed to abstinence or can prove their sobriety stand a better chance.

If you are new to recovery, you might find this requirement a bit steep. But if you can prove commitment to remain sober, and not violate house rules, go for it. Most houses do not offer medical care, so you must have completed treatment program elsewhere before joining the transitional facility.

A couple of houses demand that you either have a job or proof that you are actively looking for one. Alternatively, you can do an interview if you do not have a job already.

A good number oblige residents to pass a drug screening and/or breathalyzer test. They’re not equipped to deal with withdrawal symptoms or delirium tremens. Others will continue taking random tests from time to time just to ensure no resident is involved in drugs.

You will be required to participate in an outreach program in an affiliated outpatient treatment center. You are expected to follow all the rules of the specific house. So most houses will ask residents to:

  • Pay rent
  • Stay sober. Keep drugs and alcohol out of the home. Be available for random drug testing.
  • Stay sober within and outside the home
  • Take care of all your chores around the house
  • Participate in weekly house meetings
  • Take par in recovery meetings (especially in affiliated centers)
  • Adhere to curfew.
  • No fighting and violence, or stealing and destroying  other’s property

How Much Does a Halfway Cost?

Rent charges differ from one home to another. Some non-profits will split rent and utility bills equally among all residents. Some private entities will charge the rent as per market rate. You can use any of the following options to meet costs of the house:

  • Insurance
  • Scholarship and grants from government-supported institutions
  • Personal savings
  • Loans or donations from family or friends
  • Bank loans or credit cards
  • Working out a payment plan with the facility

What Happens in a Halfway House?

Resources and services available in a halfway house depends on the nature of the operator, the purpose of the facility and residents housed there. Generally, houses have strict rules, accountability tests and resources to facilitate easy living. You are likely to encounter a house manager, supervisor, and landlord. Most will likely limit your stay.

Services and resources offered will also depend on the level of care in the residence. While some homes give direct access to clinical services, others provide referrals to reputable providers. The intensity of care and service types provided will depend on recovery stage of the resident. Halfway houses designed for people that are new to recovery avail more resources and structure than sober living homes with residents with a proven history of sobriety.

Most houses do not offer medical care but provide drug abuse and recovery programming. Some of these services include:

  • Drug screenings
  • Support group meetings
  • Counseling
  • Life skill development
  • Vocational training

How Long Can You Stay in a Halfway House?

Your stay period in the house varies depending on personal factors, recovery progress and the nature of problem. But most stays last between three to twenty-four months. Personal factors determine time needed to be back on your feet such as getting a job, planning for housing or feeling emotionally ready to interact with others without compromising your sobriety. If you were committed to the house for recovery (mandatory), the staff will recommend when you have achieved comfortable sobriety milestones.

Some halfway houses such as Oxford House are owned and run by non-profits. They allow members to stay as long as they want providing they abide by rules. Others only allow for a short period because of financial constraints. The periods vary between facilities depending on whether goals have been achieved, there is proof of successful transition, adherence to rules and if the client is ready to continue to uphold sobriety at home.

We know a number of halfway houses that will work perfectly for an after the treatment program. Check with us, and we will work with you.

  1. This was really informative — there is a halfway house very close to me and I didn’t fully understand how it all worked. I think it’s so important that these communities exist because humans are social and need support. Many addicts have bad relationships with their families and need a new “family”. Halfway houses sound like a great option for many recovering addicts.

  2. Thanks for clarifying what half-way houses really meant. I actually had never heard of the term residential re-entry centers for those who just got out of prison.

  3. My brother when to a halfway house and did very well. I’m so thankful for places like this. I really think it saved my brother’s life.

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