What Is a Halfway House?
A halfway house is a living environment that supports recovery for people transitioning out of drug and/or alcohol rehab, mental health treatment, and/or incarceration.1 Particularly for those fresh out of treatment, familiar environments, friends, and family members can present stressors that can hinder recovery efforts. Transitioning from treatment into a halfway house may offer the necessary space and time away from these triggers to promote recovery.2
In general, the goal of halfway houses is to provide a substance-free, healthy, safe, and family-like environment to support people in recovery. Although the structure of each residence is different, they all focus on peer support and providing connections to additional services that promote long-term recovery.3
Types of Recovery Housing
Halfway houses fall under the heading of recovery housing, which fosters recovery from drug or alcohol use and associated issues.4 Other types of recovery housing include sober homes (aka sober living homes) and Oxford Houses, both of which are slightly different than halfway houses.
- Sober homes. Unlike halfway houses, sober living homes are often connected to an inpatient treatment center and may offer an intensive outpatient program on site or nearby to transition from that higher level of care. For example, some American Addiction Centers treatment facilities—such as the Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas and Greenhouse Treatment Center near Dallas/Fort Worth—offer sober living environments. This option can be beneficial, as it allows the patient to move relatively seamlessly from one type of care to another all within a similar care model—providing consistency that can aid recovery. Other types of for-profit sober homes provide this service to anyone in need of supportive housing regardless of recent treatment.1
- Oxford Houses. Oxford Houses are democratically managed, self-sustaining homes that are free from drugs and alcohol.5 Providing peer-supported communal living and self-governance, these rented multibedroom dwellings are maintained and managed by residents rather than professional staff or an umbrella organization (as is the case with most halfway houses).6,7,8 As such, each resident pays an equal share of the expenses, including rent and utility bills.7,8 Unlike most other types of recovery homes, Oxford Houses have no maximum length of stay, and the average length of stay is one year.8
What is the Purpose of a Halfway House?
The purpose of a halfway house is to serve as a bridge or support network between rehab and independent life. Supported by staff and peers, residents are encouraged to develop life and social skills to better cope with society and recovery.9
Halfway housing is designed to support these needs in a structured environment through on-site staff. While they vary by facility, staff might include house managers, peer supports, and/or credentialed medical and mental health professionals, depending on the service model.3
Staffers work with clients using various programs and approaches, such as linking them with clinical treatment, connecting them to peer support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and/or providing life skills training on site.3
What to Expect at a Halfway House
Recovery residences such as halfway houses are located throughout the United States and are most often found in residential areas that enable residents to integrate into the community.10 While each property has its own rules and operating procedures, here are some insights as to what one might expect in a halfway house.
- Length of stay. Halfway houses are intended to help residents transition from one situation to the next, as opposed to being permanent homes, and length of stay for recovery residences varies according to the level of care provided.1,10 For example, some properties encourage a minimum length of stay as well as maximum durations to encourage progress. Others may impose no maximum time limit.10
- Staff. Unlike Oxford Houses, halfway houses typically have some type of staff on site. Some facilities might offer social workers and/or behavioral health staff, and other homes might include clinical services such as grief counseling.1
- Living arrangements. Living arrangements also vary by facility, as do the number of residents. While some properties have bedrooms shared by two or three individuals, other properties offer larger rooms set up to house multiple residents via bunk beds.1
- Funding. Halfway houses are partially funded by government grants, typically at the state level. While residents provide their own toiletries and food, staff can assist in connecting patients to government funding for other needs when necessary.1
- Working/volunteering. Working and/or volunteering are important parts of halfway house living. Depending on the level of care of the home, residents might work off site to meet their financial obligations. In other settings, residents’ time may be structured to include various mandatory activities, which would make it unreasonable to participate in work or volunteer activities.10
- Medications. While even over-the-counter medications can be misused and thus may prove harmful to some residents, prescribed medications may be vital to other residents’ recovery. Thus, each home has its own policy regarding medications, which should be clearly communicated.10
Halfway House Rules
While each facility has its own expectations and requirements, many have rules intended to ensure the safety and sobriety of residents and promote the development of skills related to general life tasks, employment, interpersonal relationships, etc. Halfway house rules can include:1
- Abstinence. Residents must refrain from using alcohol and other drugs, and the house may implement random testing to ensure compliance.
- Alcohol- and drug-free property. Drugs, alcohol, and related paraphernalia are typically prohibited in halfway houses.
- Employment. Some facilities require residents to maintain employment and a portion of the wages are applied to their rent. For the unemployed, expected activities can include job training, application submission, interview scheduling, etc.
- Meeting attendance. Twelve-step meetings and working with an AA or NA sponsor may be recommended or required.
- Conduct and curfew. Many houses have rules prohibiting physical and verbal fighting as well as honesty infractions (e.g., stealing), and most houses have a set curfew for when residents must be back in the building at night.
In addition, halfway houses often have rules about visitation, mainly to ensure the security of residents and staff. These may include rules about how many visitors a resident may have at a time and how to have a guest pre-approved by staff members. Minors can typically visit adult relatives in a halfway house if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.11
Violating the rules at a halfway house can have serious consequences. For example, federally funded halfway houses typically serve residents who were released from prison, and rule violations can impact their conditions for release. In other halfway houses, there may be a certain number of violations or warnings allowed before a resident is asked to leave the house.11
How Much Does a Halfway House Cost
Halfway house costs vary according to the level of care provided, which is related to the cost of staff and local housing prices.10 The cost of a halfway house can also vary depending on the number of services provided and the amount of privacy given to each resident.1
As a particular type of recovery residence, halfway houses are subsidized by government grants, meaning that the cost of upkeep is not solely funded by residents paying rent.1 As such, residents are expected to pay weekly or monthly rent, which may be a set rate or calculated as a portion of their income.1,10
Who Can Live at a Halfway House?
In some instances, rehab facilities may refer a patient to a halfway house following treatment. Similarly, court-mandated treatment centers and/or the court may recommend or mandate that someone stay in a halfway house.12 Other times, residents seek out halfway houses of their own accord.
Also note that in some states (e.g., Texas), halfway houses only serve parolees.13 So it may be helpful to note how your state defines the term before you consider a halfway house as a recovery option.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or substance misuse, American Addiction Centers can help you find treatment and understand post-treatment options such as halfway houses. Contact one of our admissions navigators today to take the first steps toward recovery or to help identify recovery residences that can aid your recovery .