How to Start a Halfway House

How to Start a Halfway House


What is a Halfway House?

Halfway Houses are transitional living places for those in recovery from drugs or alcohol. They are also called sober houses. Some people go to halfway houses from a treatment center, prison, or a homeless situation, while others go there to be in a sober and clean environment to begin the recovery process. Some residents are in halfway houses due to court orders.

Aspects of a Halfway House

Many halfway houses are run by people who themselves were at one time a halfway house resident. The houses accommodate either men or women. Most halfway houses require residents to pass breathalyzer and drug screening tests. Some houses have curfews.

Make sure the house is located so that your residents can easily get to AA and NA meetings. In recovery, we are self-supporting. Be certain that you are clear on what is expected from you and what you expect from your residents. Assign cleaning chores, including making their beds and keeping their rooms tidy.

Choose a house near public transportation for those of your residents who do not have their own transportation.

Why You Should Start a Halfway House

You should only open a halfway house if you are passionate about the cause. And, if you are passionate, it can be done with little or no money. There are various grants and loans available to get a house started. Learn from experience and check with someone who already has a house to see how to open one.

How to Start a Halfway House

Step 1: Acquire the licenses and permits needed to operate a halfway house in the community you select.

Step 2: Purchase or lease a property. Your financial circumstances may dictate this choice, but county, city, township and other lawmaking agencies frequently require property ownership before they are willing to sanction a halfway house in a residential neighborhood. Once you find one or more likely properties, have your top choices inspected by a certified building inspector to avoid “buyer’s remorse.”

Step 3: Renovate the property. Unless the home you buy was operated as a halfway house in the past, you’ll likely have to modify it to accommodate zoning laws that sanction the number of people you can house there, or any personal limits you’ve placed on resident capacity. Purchase insurance to cover the house and its contents, and add liability coverage to protect your personal assets from lawsuits. A regular homeowner’s policy isn’t adequate for a group home.

Step 4: Hire staff and create policies, rules and regulations. Having staff in place before the first resident arrives is a huge advantage, because experienced halfway house employees can help you write an operations manual and set rules, regulations and policies that will guide both clients and staff. Make sure you run background checks on everyone, from counselors to housekeeping employees.

Step 5: Set up the accounting aspects of your halfway house so it operates smoothly well into the future. Accurate records are important if you want your sponsors to continue making financial contributions, and it goes without saying that finding additional sponsors will be an ongoing activity.

Step 6: Implement programming. Residents released from rehab programs require an inordinate amount of structure in their lives so they can learn to become responsible members of both the halfway house and the outside world. Establish tight schedules that include mandated housekeeping chores, group counseling sessions, one-on-one therapy time, recreational activities, job searching and life skill building time. Plan social events, meetings and include alone time.

Remember: It is unlawful to discriminate in housing. The Supreme Court has ruled that recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are a protected class under the handicapped provisions of the Federal Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988. If you seek a house in a good neighborhood, you’ll find it.








If you need help with your addiction please call us at 800-507-7389.

What is a House Manager?

Often, when you are a resident at a sober house, there will be one person who is designated “house manager” of the property. Sometimes the house manager lives on property, other times they live in a separate residence but spend much of their time at the sober house. In some of the bigger sober houses, there may be more than one person who is managing the property.

Basically, the house manager at a sober house is responsible for enforcing the property rules and managing the other employees at the sober house. Each sober house has its own rules, but there are some general rules that are enforced at most sober houses. For example, drugs, alcohol, and weapons are prohibited at a sober house, as is any drug paraphernalia. A sober house usually has a curfew, and bed checks are performed (by the house manager or other employees) nightly to make sure that everyone is home by the designated time. House managers are also responsible for giving drug tests regularly and taking the appropriate action if someone relapses.

Enforcing the rules is not the only job of a house manager of a sober house. They are also there to provide support and advice to the newly sober residents of the sober house. They often give advice on the program, getting jobs, and connecting them with other people in the program that have more sober time. A house manager is usually intimately involved in the lives of the residents at the sober house, though the degree of involvement varies from one house to another.

At the sober house I lived in, our house manager gave rides to meetings and job interviews, helped the girls write resumes, and taught the girls who needed it how to clean, do laundry, and make a bed properly. She was always available by phone if we needed advice, and when girls would relapse, she would come over in the middle of the night to drive them to detox (which was the house policy).

Some sober houses were more lax than mine, with house managers that were not really involved in the resident’s daily life. In those houses, residents would go to the house manager to request overnight passes or if they were going to be late for curfew, but other than that, there was very little contact. On the flip side to that, there were also sober house managers that were far more involved in mine. In some sober houses, the house manager keep track of what each girl (or guy) is doing daily, who they are hanging with, if they are calling other sober people on a daily basis, etc. This type of sober house is very beneficial for those who struggle in early sobriety, because it provides a stricter environment that is more similar to a treatment center. Girls that are very young and have not lived on their own before or girls that have behavioral problems in treatment are often referred to this type of sober house. Your therapist in treatment will suggest the right halfway house, and house manager, for you.

If you need help with your addiction please call us at 800-507-7389.