What Is A Halfway House? (It’s Different from Sober Living Homes)

Halfway House: Definition

A halfway house is a type of temporary residence with a controlled environment that allows individuals to gain (or regain) the necessary skills to reintegrate into society. The term originated in the 1840s and refers to residents being “halfway” to independent living from their previous correctional or addiction treatment facility. They provide support, accountability, and a number of practical benefits that create a safe environment free from detrimental influences. As such they may require residents to pass drug screenings and participate in regular drug testing. Some are state-funded and others are private. As such,  the requirements for eligibility can vary between them.

What is the purpose of a halfway house?

Halfway houses help individuals who have been in an alternative living situation transition back into society. These include people who have been incarcerated, enrolled in rehab, or homeless. Their ultimate purpose is to both reduce a resident’s risk of relapsing and giving them the means to do so. They provide many benefits to their residents beyond just that of shelter which can include medical, psychiatric, educational, and social services. These formal services allow residents to learn useful skills to help them gain lawful employment or to ensure their children are taken care of. 

While a halfway house may function somewhat like a rehab facility with its controlled settings, curfews, and medical access, it is not meant to be an extension of inpatient treatment nor a substitute for drug addiction treatment. Substance abuse programs may be offered within these facilities, but it is not their primary focus and does not provide detox or withdrawal-related medication. Additionally, these facilities are a short-term solution whose max length of stay is usually between 3 or twelve months. 

The Difference Between a Halfway House and Sober Living House

At first glance, a halfway house and sober house might appear to be the same thing. Both offer a supportive environment specifically for individuals involved in a drug addiction treatment program. The primary difference between the two is that a halfway house typically requires you are currently enrolled in an addiction treatment program or have been recently. They usually have a limited length of stay however, they offer several formal treatment services that can be vital to someone regaining long-term independence. 

Sober houses, on the other hand, are not as restrictive about who can reside on their properties. Many are open to anyone who simply has a desire to be sober. They tend to be structured more like private residences and can sometimes serve as long-term housing options. Residents have fewer rules than that of a halfway house but still may have to agree to abstinence, attend 12 step meetings or curfews.

Common Halfway House Rules

The qualifying rules and requirements to stay at a halfway house–and maintaining eligibility– can vary by institution. There may be treatment program requirements, work requirements, curfews, and drug testing.  However, there are a few basic rules that are universally enforced:

  • Stick to curfew
  • Drug or alcohol use is not allowed; you must remain sober
  • There will be random drug testing
  • Contribute to house maintenance with daily chores
  • No fighting or violence
  • No stealing or destroying property
  • Attend 12-Step groups or other types of recovery meetings
  • Find employment (or have proof of job applications)

These rules provide a valuable structure that reduces exposure to environmental and emotional triggers that could tempt someone to relapse. Violating these rules could result in fines or being told to leave the facility.

How To Find a Halfway House Near Me

Many of these institutions are government-funded. This allows for halfway homes to be significantly low-cost or sometimes completely free. The one downside is that because of this, a halfway house’s limited spots can fill up very quickly. The best way to find a halfway house or sober living community in Florida is to contact your addiction treatment facility and ask for housing arrangement assistance after your treatment program is complete. Finding a supportive drug-free living situation can be a great help in relapse prevention and give you the motivation you need to achieve long-term sobriety. 

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