Sober Living Homes and Halfway Houses

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Sober living homes and halfway houses are substance-free environments where people recovering from addiction can stay temporarily. These environments afford them sufficient distance from their substance abuse triggers, as well as healthy routines to follow. It’s also from a sober living home or a halfway house that a resident can tap further resources for their healing. Depending on the type of facility, the resident may have access to medical care, counseling, or peer support from a self-help group.

Here at Better Addiction Care, you can find out more about these two types of substance-free accommodation. Learn about what distinguishes one from the other and choose the most appropriate option for yourself or for a loved one who’s healing from addiction.

What Is a Halfway House?

Halfway houses are government-owned facilities whose origins date back to 19th century England. The term “halfway house” has also been used in North America since the 1840s, with the onset of the Temperance Movement. The original purpose of halfway houses was to provide residence for children who were in conflict with the law. Today, halfway houses are understood to be facilities for those recovering from either addiction or chronic mental health disorders.

In the United States, halfway houses often partner with correctional facilities in order to provide  inmates with substance abuse-related problems some additional rehabilitative services. Thus, it is common for commitment into a halfway house to be a result of a court order for addiction treatment. The rationale of a halfway house is for its staff to monitor and support its residents as they prepare to transition back into normal society. A halfway house program also aims to decrease the risks of relapse, recidivism, and culture shock that come with straight and abrupt releases from prison.

What Is a Sober Living Home?

A sober living home, in contrast, is a residential facility that’s typically privately owned or for-profit. The idea of sober living homes is much newer than that of halfway houses. The first residential facilities in the US that were called “sober living homes” were founded only in the 1960s. Whereas halfway houses were responses to the Temperance Movement, sober living homes rode off the newfound popularity of 12-step self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Many sober living homes still uphold the peer-oriented recovery models of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as their foundation. Individual sober living homes may also be part of a wider association, like the Sober Living Network.

Residents who choose to stay in a sober living home can do so as long as they please. This is the opposite of a halfway house’s fixed-term arrangement. They are also expected to pay their own rent, contribute to chores around the home, and attend AA or NA meetings. Thus, a sober living home affords a similar refuge from addiction the way a halfway house does—but with a little more freedom and flexibility.

What Are the Key Differences Between Halfway Houses and Sober Living Homes?

Halfway houses and sober living homes have several things in common. But there are also some key differences that distinguish the two. Here are the ones you should take note of.

  • The facility’s oversight and its source of funding. The most significant difference between a halfway house and a sober living home is what type of institution funds and oversees it. Halfway houses are managed and funded by the US government through federal agencies like the Justice Department. Conversely, sober living homes are run by private organizations on a for-profit basis. Much of the funding for a sober living home’s operation comes from the pockets of would-be residents.
  • The extent of formal addiction treatment the residents receive. Between the two, it is a halfway house that offers formal and extensive addiction treatment. Halfway homes are mandated by the government to provide sufficient rehabilitative services as well as medical, psychiatric, and other types of support to residents. Sober living homes typically do not offer formal addiction treatment, but they may have a network of outside providers for referrals to their residents.
  • The cost of residing in the facility. The costs for residing in a halfway house versus residing in a sober living home are also very different. Since halfway houses are government-funded facilities, would-be residents can have the cost of their stay funded by their Medicaid health insurance. New residents to a sober living home, however, typically have to spend more out of pocket for their own rent. They also cover their own meals and the use of any additional amenities in the sober living home.
  • Flexibility in duration of stay. Any residency in a halfway house is predetermined, and residents can only stay for a limited period. Six months is typically the maximum period that a resident may stay in a halfway house. In contrast, a resident in a sober living home has a lot more freedom in deciding how long they will live there. As long as they pay their rent and follow the rules of the sober living home, residents can be housed there for however long.
  • The structure of the living environment. Those who’ll be going to a halfway house can expect communal, dorm-like living arrangements for the duration of their stay. They will likely be housed in male- and female-segregated dormitories and share common living areas with other residents. Sober living homes, on the other hand, can offer residents their own rooms or apartment-style units.

Should You Stay in a Halfway House or a Sober Living Home?

Different people will find different types of substance-free living effective for their healing from addiction. What works for someone else may not work the same way for you or for a loved one. There are several factors that you should consider carefully before you choose to commit to either a halfway house or a sober living home. Here are some of them

  • Access to formal addiction treatment. The first question you have to ask is how much formal addiction treatment is needed for your situation. A halfway house’s program will guarantee you extensive rehabilitative and medical care. A sober living home does not offer this level of formal treatment in-house, although they may be able to make referrals.
  • Time and distance away from civilian life. The second issue is a matter of how much time and distance the person recuperating from addiction will need from normal life. If a few months is sufficient, then the person will get the break they need in a halfway house. For a break that extends beyond six months, the best choice is a sober living home.
  • The next issue is the matter of cost. How much will you be willing to pay out of pocket? If you stay at a halfway house, you can either use your insurance coverage or apply for financial assistance from the government. If you have the resources to pay from your own pocket, however, you can spend on a comfortable stay in a sober living home.
  • The last issue is how much of a priority the resident’s privacy is. Those who are fine being in the company of other residents during their sabbatical may choose a halfway house. Those who’d like a greater degree of privacy, however, can opt to rent their own space in a sober living home.

What Should You Remember About Staying in a Substance-Free Living Environment? 

Here are some additional reminders on making the best out of your stay in either environment.

  • Choose the most cost-effective residence plan for your situation. It may be expensive to stay in a substance-free environment, but it can be a good investment towards full recovery from addiction. Regardless, you should choose the most cost-effective plan and find a way to guarantee financing well ahead of your stay.
  • Follow the center’s rules and routines. The exact rules per facility may differ, but they will always have rules in place. For your own good and for the good of the other residents, observe these rules during your stay there. Be respectful as well about the way of life the center advocates, and do your part in keeping the environment substance-free.
  • Participate actively in your treatment or support group. You will get the best out of your stay in a substance-free environment if you take an active part in its programs. If you’re receiving formal rehabilitative, medical, or psychiatric treatment for your addiction, be sure to take it seriously. Focus when it’s time for counseling, therapy, or support group activities with your Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous peers.
  • Be a good companion to your fellow residents. Halfway houses and sober living homes thrive on a sense of community. In these facilities, you can take heart from the fact that you’re not alone in combating your addiction. But in turn, it’s good for you to be there for your fellow residents and uplift them in their own journeys toward recovery.

Better Addiction Care will help you find a halfway house or sober living home in your locality. Search our listings today to find a substance-free environment that can be your temporary refuge.

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