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Halfway houses are, by definition, institutions that allow people with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities, or those with criminal backgrounds, to learn skills necessary to reintegrate into society.

In the past, they were primarily designed to help people released from prison have a place to go and live among other recently released prisoners and search for work. In the interim, they would learn how to engage with regular society and gain the ability to be self-sufficient after being incarcerated.

In the treatment program sense, halfway houses are similar. Instead of the clientele consisting of criminals, recovering addicts, and alcoholics who recently graduated their inpatient treatment programs are the residents. As they step down from a higher level of care, it’s crucial to their recovery and personal development to begin to learn how to function in the world without the use of drugs and alcohol.

A halfway house provides a safe space which acts as a buffer between society and the addict. By using and enforcing strict rules regarding employment, behavior, and drug use, it allows the recovering addict to experience some personal freedoms while maintaining a responsibility to their program of recovery.

They are subjected to frequent and random drug testing and breathalyzer tests to ensure that there is no substance use among the inhabitants. Often, residents of a halfway house are also enrolled in intensive outpatient (IOP) or outpatient (OP) programs, which further assist with accountability.

Halfway houses are almost always gender-specific. In the interest of keeping the focus on recovery as opposed to various distractions, typically a halfway house will be entirely male or female.

The idea is it not only creates a more recovery-oriented environment but also places emphasis on the formation of friendships and the value of communal living that is crucial for long-term recovery. By building up a strong support system, it often helps keep you accountable to your program and creates bonds between housemates.


There are many preconceived notions about halfway houses. However, the reality is completely different from the negative stigma. Upon your arrival to a halfway house, you’ll sign a contract that will ask for your commitment to following their rules. These rules are simple, but always important. If you violate the terms of the halfway house, you’ll either face immediate eviction or return to a higher level of care.

Usually there will be a curfew in place that dictates when you must leave and return to the house. This will help encourage productivity by having residents out during the day time hours searching for a job and home in the evening time when the propensity for relapse is higher. Depending on your recovery time and employment status, as well as other factors, your curfew may be extended compared to your roommates.

You’ll also agree to be subjected to random drug testing and breathalyzer testing. Whether random, or administered upon suspicion of relapse, you are required to adhere to the drug testing policy at all times or face eviction.

Should you fail your drug test or breathalyzer test, certain punitive actions will be taken at the discretion of the halfway house. Some houses may require you to restart the treatment process and return upon completion, while others may simply evict you on the spot.

If you are at a gender-specific halfway house, there are often rules against bringing members of the opposite sex onto the property. If they are allowed at all, it will usually only be in the community spaces areas and during scheduled times.

Again, the purpose of living in a halfway house is to live in an environment geared toward promoting recovery, and people in early recovery are never suggested to surround themselves with the opposite gender.

You will more than likely share a bedroom and a communal living space. Learning to live well with others is an important life skill that many addicts and alcoholics struggle with as a result of years of seclusion during active addiction.

The idea is that comradery among housemates will further promote an atmosphere of recovery by helping each other achieve their sobriety goals, and allows for an environment where residents who may be struggling can be identified and be given additional support before relapse ensues.

Mandatory meeting attendance is also usually an aspect of any good halfway house. Members of the house are often required to attend 12-step meetings on a daily basis. It can be less for certain people who may have more time in recovery, and, again, it is at the discretion of the halfway house.

Requiring residents to actively go to meetings can help motivate those who, otherwise, may not be inclined to on their own. Frequent meeting attendance is crucial in the beginning stages of recovery when potential relapse is at its highest. A dip in meeting attendance can be a tell-tale sign to the halfway house that relapse is occurring or impending.

There is usually a house manager, referred to as a “house mom” or “house dad”, who lives on property and oversees activities at the house. These people are usually clients who have garnered the trust of the house owners and operators who have lived there for an extended period of time and shown themselves to be exemplary clients. They report directly to the owners or higher ups.

They will take the helm and act as the leader at the property and will be the ones to administer drug tests and enforce curfew, as well as delegate chores and punitive actions. They’re the eyes and ears of the halfway house and provide support to residents in various situations that may crop up.

Halfway houses are also meant to teach the residents how to function as an active member of society. This includes learning how to cook, clean, maintain personal hygiene, and be a dependable individual. Each week, different chores around the house are usually delegated in a rotational format. Every tenant is required to not only pick up after themselves, but also perform their scheduled chore each day. Failure to do so may result in different punitive actions, but the idea is to help addicts who may have no idea how to maintain a household successfully learn to be self-sufficient.


It’s not easy to find the right drug treatment center, especially when there are thousands of them available and minimal information on how to narrow the possibilities down to the best fit. Choosing the right rehab requires lots of information and answers to tricky questions many people have of the recovery process, such as the difference between inpatient and outpatient programs and how to pay for rehab.


Halfway houses are a critical step in any treatment program. Going directly from an inpatient treatment back into the world can wreak havoc on a recovering addict. Being given complete freedom at such a precarious stage in recovery will often backfire and result in relapse.

Going to a halfway house, instead, will allow for the gradual step down from institutionalization into regular society.
Typically, at an inpatient level, the focus is placed more on therapy and getting to the root of addiction as opposed to lifestyle and how to function properly in the real world.

Halfway houses teach not only life skills, but also accountability. By knowing you cannot drink or use drugs while living at the residence, it can act as an effective deterrent. This can help the clients obtain more time in sobriety which only strengthens their resolve to abstain from drugs and alcohol.

It is often recommended that recovering addicts stay at a halfway house for about a year to allow enough time to grow in their personal program of recovery and garner a full year off of substances. Lengths of stay have been directly correlated to success in maintain long-term recovery.

Furthermore, halfway houses will almost always require residents to maintain consistent employment. Apart from having to pay rent at the house, which is often nominal and meant more to teach the clients about the importance of paying bills, it's crucial for personal development. Many times, in active addiction, addicts can either not maintain employment whatsoever or have an inhibited work ethic. Since holding a job is an important facet of any successful life, learning how to find and keep a job is an invaluable life lesson.

Halfway houses can also help you grow in your program of recovery. By consistently putting so much emphasis on recovery and requiring their clients to actively work on their program, those who may at first be resistant will ultimately flourish in their sobriety. Providing a little external motivation could be the push that a resident may need to stick with it and find long-lasting recovery.

Attending a halfway house will also provide great opportunities to create long-lasting friendships with housemates. United in recovery, you’ll learn what it means to laugh and enjoy the gifts of being sober. Learning how to be a friend is something that many addicts may initially struggle with, after being locked in selfish addiction for so long. Some of your best friends in recovery and life may very well be your roommates in halfway.


What’s important when deciding whether halfway is right for you isn’t so much if it’s right in general, but whether this specific house is tailored to the individual. Halfway will benefit absolutely anyone who attends, but selecting the right program is imperative. Not all halfway houses are created equally!

First, it’s important to look at the success rate of the halfway house. While stricter halfway houses may not be necessarily appealing, they often produce the best results. Halfway houses that do not have a strict curriculum may harbor an atmosphere of relapse rather than recovery.

These houses that allow their residents to continually relapse and use without any repercussions are known as “flop houses”. Flop houses must be avoided at all costs, as recovering addicts will not only struggle to find success in their recovery and their lives, but risk potentially relapsing and even overdosing.

There are different types of halfway houses as well. Some halfway houses have strong roots in different religions and theologies, that may or may not appeal to you. Others may be gender-specific or co-ed. Different houses can also have a higher or lower client census.

Some halfway houses may also act more along the lines of three-quarter way houses, which usually have less supervision and rules and are geared more towards people who have longer lengths of sobriety. Looking at the different specifications before deciding on enrolling in their program is necessary when deciding if the halfway house is right for you.

Lastly, being up-to-date on your state’s requirements for accreditations for halfway houses is crucial. If your state requires the halfway to operate with possession of a specific license, check to make sure it is up to par with state regulations. While it may vary from state-to-state, Florida, for example, now requires every halfway house to have the FARR (Florida Association of Recovery Residences) certification. Having these accreditations can help you differentiate between a superior or inferior program.

More so than anything, make sure to tour the halfway house before making a decision. During the tour, feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like regarding their program and standards of practice. Actually visiting the property can give you a first-hand look at not only the accommodations, but the overall experience you can expect.

Make sure to tour as many different houses as you can to make an informed decision. Success in recovery is definitely possible, especially when in the hands of a great halfway house. Make the right decision today to build your foundation for tomorrow!


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