Oxford House Recovery Homes

3 min read · 6 sections
Returning to old, familiar environments following treatment can reintroduce stressors that hinder recovery. An Oxford House, which is a self-governing and cost-effective sober living environment, can aid the transition following treatment and offer peer-based support and behavior modeling for drug and alcohol abstinence.
What you will learn:
What is an Oxford House?
Benefits of an Oxford House
Rules and Requirements

What Is an Oxford House?

An Oxford House is a self-sustaining, democratically run home that’s free from drugs and alcohol.1 These homes provide an environment for peer-supported communal living, self-governance, and self-help, allowing residents to support each other in their efforts to abstain from alcohol and substance use.2

Residents typically include those recovering from drug and/or alcohol misuse, along with those who have co-occurring disorders and substance use disorders. In fact, most people that spend time in an Oxford House do so after completing a rehabilitation program or following detox.3

Started, operated, and maintained by the residents—as opposed to paid professional staff or an umbrella organization—Oxford Houses are rented, multibedroom dwellings. Here, each member of the home pays an equal share of the expenses, including rent and utility bills.3,4  

These properties house roughly 8 to 15 same-gender occupants.3,4 That said, some properties accept women and their children (regardless of each child’s gender), and other homes serve specific populations, such as members of the LGBTQ community and those who are hearing impaired.3

A key difference between an Oxford House and many other sober living environments is that there is no maximum length of stay. Residents can live in the home as long as they don’t drink alcohol nor use drugs and they pay their share of expenses. That said, one year is the average length of stay, but many residents remain for three years of more.3

Oxford Homes can be found throughout the United States as well as in countries such as Canada, Ghana, and Australia.3 The rented properties are often situated in suburban and working-class neighborhoods that offer adequate public transportation options, nearby businesses for employment opportunities and the needs of everyday living, and stable neighbors.5

According to research on communal housing settings, compared to those who return to their communities directly following substance misuse treatment, people who enter recovery housing environments such as Oxford Houses typically have decreased rates of incarceration and substances use and increased rates of employment.6 And according to at least one study, which followed 897 Oxford House residents for 27 months, only 13% of residents relapsed.3

Who Starts and Manages Oxford Houses?

Oxford House Inc. is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization that oversees the establishment of Oxford Houses and offers charters to new houses. While any group of people in recovery can start a new Oxford house (which includes finding a house to rent and securing a charter), many Oxford Houses are started by members of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In fact, 76% of Oxford House residents attend weekly NA or AA meetings.3,7,8 To support the establishment of new Oxford Houses, some states offer loans to help pay for a property’s security deposit and first month of rent.3

Why Do People Choose to Live in an Oxford House?

Those who return to their homes, friends, families, and familiar environments following treatment may face stressors that can hinder their recovery efforts. Moving from treatment or detox into a sober living environment may aid recovery by creating additional space and time away from familiar relapse triggers.9

Along these same lines, self-governed environments such as Oxford Houses may help residents to establish healthy functioning, skills, and values while also regaining physical and emotional health. In fact, for some people, a therapeutic community such as this may be their first ever exposure to an orderly life, allowing them to witness and develop the behavioral skills, values, and attitudes that foster healthy and functional living.10

Additionally, these settings can help residents develop a strong bond with other people who value abstinence. As such, not only can the the guidance, support, and info received from their peers support their own abstinence but also new residents may begin to model the effective coping skills, act as sources of information, and advocate for sobriety among their peers and incoming residents.11 These leadership traits, then, can foster a sense of competence and self-efficacy to reduce the risk of relapse when the resident eventually leaves the Oxford House.4

How Does an Oxford House Work?

Anyone interested in becoming a member of an Oxford House can do so by requesting to join an existing house. This involves filling out an application and interviewing with the existing house members. If 80% of the residents approve of the applicant and there a vacant room in the home, the applicant is accepted as a resident.3

Once admitted to the house, residents pay for rent, utilities, and food and assist with chores.11 While there’s no single recovery plan that all residents must follow, residents can seek additional treatment while living in this community, and participation in AA and NA are encouraged where appropriate.4

Without professional staff to guide residents’ actions, residents must develop skills related to self-governance and must support each other in their endeavors. For example, some houses implement strategies to confront behavior issues, e.g., developing behavior contracts, implementing rewards and punishment strategies related to house chores, etc.11

Again, there’s no maximum length of stay in an Oxford House. However, residents may elect to evict a resident that doesn’t meet financial responsibilities to the house, resumes drug and/or alcohol use, and/or behaves in an antisocial or disruptive manner.4

Oxford House Rules

Rules at Oxford Houses are kept to the minimum, but all properties operate under a democratic framework. Here, each resident has one vote, and the majority rules in all cases except for new-resident approvals, which require 80% approval by existing members.12

Aside from the democratic framework, three basic rules govern behavior. Residents must:11

  • Refrain from disruptive behavior.
  • Abstain from drug and alcohol use.
  • Pay rent and contribute to the maintenance of the house.

That said, residents of each property may agree upon Oxford House requirements unique to the residence, e.g., the presence of pets, responsibility for chores, etc.12

This democratic structure and self-run (as opposed to staffed) philosophy helps those in recovery to take responsibilities for their actions. Plus, the absence of professional staff keeps the cost of running the home low.3

How Much Does an Oxford House Cost?

While some states offer loans to assist in starting an Oxford House, there’s minimum government funding available to assist with related resident expenses. Plus, since Oxford Houses aren’t institutions with professional staff, insurance doesn’t usually cover the cost of living in an Oxford House.12

However, Oxford Houses are often cost-effective housing solutions. Rent and the various utilities paid by residents vary by location, but the cost of living in an Oxford House is usually no more than what it would cost to live elsewhere. Plus, this option may actually be cheaper than other housing environments given the fact that residents split the household costs among several residents.

How to Find an Oxford House Near Me

The Oxford House website offers a directory of homes listed according to state. However, if you can’t find an Oxford House in your area, or existing houses are at capacity, any group of people in recovery can start another Oxford House. This is also true for members of an existing Oxford House if demand exceeds availability.12

Additionally, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help. At AAC, we offer trained and compassionate admissions navigators that can help answer questions about treatment and recovery. Plus, some of our treatment facilities—such as the Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas and Greenhouse Treatment Center near Dallas/Fort Worth—include sober living environments. Contact one of our to discuss both treatment and sober living options today .



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