TO OPEN A HALFWAY HOUSE IN THE UNITED STATES"*
Listings of Recovery Homes, Halfway Houses Sober Living Homes,
Listings of Treatment Centers / Substance Abuse Agencies
begin with, let us tell you that this article is going to smash any
preconceptions out there regarding opening a halfway house in the USA. According
to research you do
not need a license, permit, or any other document to open a halfway house. If
any person, government official, government agency, zoning commission, etc.
tells you otherwise, they are engaging in illegal and unfair practices. Know
your rights (see bellow links to know your rights). NATIONAL LAWS (ADA) ALWAYS
SUPERSEDE LOCAL LAWS. See the bottom of this article on filing complaints
regarding violations of The ADA, or other types of discriminations.
for a hypothetical situation; let's say that 3 people who have depression decide
to become roommates in a home. Should they be shut down and kicked out of the
neighborhood because of their disability? Does that mean they have to get a
license or permit to stay? Of course not. They are protected under the ADA
(Americans with Disabilities Act), as well as other determinations (see links
below) against such discrimination. Having chemically dependent persons in a
home is no different!!! Alcoholics and addicts have the same laws to protect
is a well known fact that City Councils have tried to stop halfway houses in
their neighborhoods by stating that a halfway house with alcoholics and/or
addicts, in other words disabled persons, (and alcoholics and addicts qualify as
disabled under the ADA), must not have roommates (as in 2 people in a room at a
house), which prevents most halfway houses from opening.
you have a house, and you want to open a halfway house, and your mortgage
payment is $700.00 per month (see additional expenses at the bottom of this
paragraph), there are many things to consider before accepting residents into
your house. Let's say, hypothetically, you follow licensing and zoning
guidelines. With the average charge to a resident with a substance abuse
problem, being around $125.00 per week, you can see that if you went with what
the license division / politicians tell you, (which are illegal tactics), you
would be out of business shortly. Keep in mind that in addition to your mortgage
payment are things such as: utilities, phone service, water, food, furniture,
cooking utensils, beds, sheets- basically everything you would need to survive,
the other hand, if you did not license your house, you could put in 2 or 3
people in a room and keep your halfway house open. In other words, helping
others to get a hand up at living sober. Please read more details below...
LAWS (ADA) ALWAYS SUPERSEDE LOCAL LAWS.
How to open a
Recovery Home, Halfway House, Sober Living Home OR starting a Half Way
House/Recovery Facility*- Resources to assist you. This article includes information on the standards and requirements of opening and operating a
Halfway House/Recovery Home- NOTE: Not every county in
the United States approaches standards and licensure in the same way- it is best
to contact your local licensure department and/or zoning division.
(See "Introduction") you will find some very useful facts and resources, but first we,
to let you know of some useful information first.
first thing you should know about opening a halfway house is that you do not
need a degree or special certification to open one, and that most operate
without a license/permit. Also, under the ADA (Americans with
Disabilities Act) and The Fair Act Amendment, as well as other determinations,
makes it illegal to discriminate against halfway houses and the people who own,
operate, and live in them. Please see our links below for more information
concerning these issues. There are a number of other important issues to cover
concerning opening a halfway house that are vital to know.
must first decide where you will operate. Once you have determined a location
you have a choice in whether to license* the facility or not. There are also other
permits, inspections, zoning variances, etc. to explore prior to opening up a
halfway house. Please keep in mind that it is your choice whether to obtain a
license, permit, and other certifications for the operation of a halfway house.
If you choose to open a halfway house without a license, there are certain
parameters you must operate under to make sure you are not shut down by the
county/city you operate within. It is always best to check into what is
required, allowed, and not allowed by contacting your local licensure agency and
halfway houses that are not licensed are mandated to NOT provide on-site
counseling or other wrap-around services- to avoid additional paperwork and
hassles, you could provide these services at a local church or other building.
Most halfway houses that are licensed may need to obtain a zoning variance,
simply because (in the eyes of politicians) you are basically operating a
business in a residential area. You may find that because you are licensing it,
the county (Zoning Commission) will limit the number of people you can have in
any one room and at any one residence. A halfway house that is going through the
licensing process (and this may take months, even years to work out) will be
required to have certain structural adaptations made (water/fire sprinkler lines
installed- which is very expensive) wheel chair accessible, parking and traffic
issues to deal with, etc.
are some overhead details to work out before you start taking in residents. A
useful guide for some of these details can be viewed via our article "How
to Find a Quality Halfway House in the United States."
You should know how many residents you will have in each room, what you are
going to charge each resident, and what services are included in this cost or
rent. You may also have to contend with residents coming in with no money, or
that some residents will be late and/or short of the entire rent monies owed.
It's up to you how you handle these situations. If you have a house ready to use
as a Halfway House (providing you have decided whether to license it or not) and
your mortgage payment, for a 4 bedroom home, is $700.00 per month (estimate),
you will also need to factor in start-up and continued costs like food costs per
week, water and utility costs, household needs, (paper towels, toilet paper,
dish soap, cleaning chemicals, phones, etc.), as well as monthly and yearly
costs, (beds and sheets, TV, computer(s), Internet connection, towels and face
clothes, shampoo, dishes and utensils, pest control services, vucuum(s),
maintenance, etc.)- basically everything you would need if you were starting
from scratch in a new home (considering you have nothing on hand) only this time
it is for X number of people. Also include additional items, if licensed, like
license and permit charges, health inspection fees, reports, paperwork and
filing, accounting, etc. With the above example you can clearly see that many
licensure and zoning variances would limit you to having only 4 people at your
house, so meeting your overhead is not possible- you would be operating in the
red every month.
NICD is supplying the facts as they are known, and as such NICD is
not held liable for the ultimate decision on whether to license or not to
license a facility.
Introduction: Fair Housing Act
case in point (actual court case) in which, for a period of more than 1 year, a
city violated the provisions stated within the Fair Housing Amendments Act (Title
VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments
Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§3601-3619) and denied the operating of a Halfway
House within a residential area.
Topics/Sections are listed using the ("#")
sign in the color red as the designator for each new resource in order
In an effort to assist individuals, agencies,
religious affiliations, etc. open recovery places and tackle the unfair and
illegal tactics politicians and others are using to stop them, NICD has
put together some basic, and very needed, resources to aid in the journey.
Counties are using zoning codes/variances to try and control halfway
houses/sober living homes and the total census allowed within these centers.
Some of the bias is a NIMBY, (Not In My Back Yard) situation, while others include
property value concerns. In any case, the reasons for discrimination and unfair
tactics are not based on fact
or material circumstances. These counties and individuals are in violation of
the law as it relates to the ADA, (Americans With Disabilities Act), Section
36.209 section 510 which describes alcoholics/drug addicts as people with
disabilities. The Federal Fair Housing Act, (see link below), 42 USC section
3604(f)(2) makes it unlawful “to discriminate against any person in the terms,
conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision
of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling because of a
handicap.” The 42 USC section 3604(f)(3)(B) provides that unlawful
discrimination includes failure to make “reasonable accommodations in rules,
There are numerous obstacles to overcome in
trying to open up a halfway house for alcoholics and/or drug addicts. NICD will
attempt to help you by providing some resources that you can use in starting up
Note: Please feel free to copy/print this page, as we have
waived the copyright for this page only.
(This will take you to our Recovery
Homes/Halfway Houses/Oxford Homes/Transitional Living Center Locators)
Houses/Treatment Centers (Alphabetically Listed State To State
(This link will assist in
locating state-to-state substance abuse agencies)
Amendments Act Information)
Use this link, ( http://www.melissadata.com/Lookups/index.htm
), to find out information on the area the house will be at, (Check the
demographics link for census information).
Zoning" — a guide to Starting a Residential Alcohol and Drug
Community Allies" — a Guide
to Building Support for a Residential
and Drug Treatment Facility (2002)
Process" — a Guide to Gaining Approval for a Residential Alcohol
Drug Treatment Facility (2002)
Access and Advocacy" — a Guide to Making News for Community Change
"ADA" (Americans with Disabilities Act) Americans with Disabilities Act
Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) Checklist for Buildings and Facilities
Some additional concerns you may encounter:
The NIMBY Syndrome, (Not In My Back Yard), is one
area that an owner of a recovery home/halfway house will have to contend with. It is usually
best to address this issue up front before you open, or before construction is
started. Your local Zoning Commission office should be able to provide
information on the area you plan on opening the halfway house in. The census bureau
can provide information on the neighborhoods make up, (economic base, average
salaries made, gender average, average cost of homes in the area, and other good
information to educate yourself with). Check to see if there is a homeowners
association, as that could be your best bet in getting to know your neighbors,
and them getting to know you. You should plan on going to one of their meetings
before you open, but definitely after you have been armed with the information
that you know will come up for discussion. Some concerns will be on whether or not you will
accept violent offenders, psychiatrically unstable residents, how your home will
affect property values. You can convince people that you plan on running a safe,
drug free, and strict program by bringing a copy of your intake protocol and
halfway house rules. Let them know how you plan on handling the situation when
one of your residents comes up positive on a drug screen. You should develop, in
writing, protocols for dealing with this and other situations- there should be a
plan of action that all staff and residents are to follow in any given
situation. There will be some
fear there, as no one wants a drug addict discharged/kicked out in their
neighborhood at 1:00 A.M. on a weekend. You need to arm yourself with the facts
and also how you will handle all sorts of possible situations. If you take the
lead and let your neighbors know, before they ask, what they can expect from
you, you will go far in gaining their trust. Just be sure you follow through as
you promised. It will pave the way to open another site, if you want to, if you
have a great relationship with those that live around your halfway house.
In six major studies of communities where halfway
houses were opened, no significant change in average housing prices could be
found (MacNeil & Kappel, 1986, Part III.A.). One study of over 4,400 real
estate transactions in neighborhoods revealed that, in 5 out of 9 neighborhoods
where halfway houses opened, average housing prices two years after opening were
equal to or higher than average housing prices one year before opening (MacNeil
& Kappel, 1986, Part III.D.1. and Part VI.).
The next section has some rules we at NICD wrote that should be a part of any
quality run halfway house. In addition to these is a section for navigating your
way through getting your residents into benefits and entitlements.
Specific: Halfway Houses Rules- A good halfway house should have rules. We
have constructed some that we feel are essential. If you can't see these at a
prospective house, we suggest you move on and check out another facility. Those
in the business are welcome to use these free of charge.
RULES & REGULATIONS
*Being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
*Possession of alcohol/drugs
*Possession of weapons
*Threats either verbal or physical, or acts of violence, fighting
*Property destruction or altering the physical construction of the premises,
including interior walls
*Failure to submit a U/A (which are always at your cost)
*Unaccountable or discrepancies in times off of premises
*Lies, either found on your intake paperwork or otherwise, stealing, unusual
behavior, and any criminal activity
*Failure to comply with rules and/or staff directions
1. You are required to attend at least 3 12-Step meetings per week, have a
program book, (Big Book, NA Text, etc.), and have your meeting slip signed by a
member of the group, and not another resident, and attend on-premises
"House Meetings" which are held 2 times per week, 1-2 hours per
2. House meeting attendance is mandatory, (which means you must arrange for
employment that does not interfere with these meetings), there are no exceptions
to this rule.
3. For the first 30 days you are to remain on premises, (during this time you
are expected to be working on your steps), and must arrange 12-Step meeting
attendance with another resident who is not on restriction, and this must be
pre-approved by the house manager.
4. You are required to sign-out when leaving the premises, and sign-in upon
return- all leaves must be pre-approved by the house manager in advance, and any
inconsistencies in leave times are grounds for discharge.
5. Rent must be paid every Friday directly to the house manager, and kept up
to date without exception.
6. You must see the house manager at least 1 time per week to discuss your
recovery program- it does not count as a visit to discuss program while paying
rent, unless the house manager chooses to do so.
7. You must obtain a Home Group and a Sponsor (You must provide a contact
name and phone number), within the first week of residency, and this will be
8. You must have Steps 1,2, and 3 in writing, and present these in the House
Meeting by the 3rd week, along with a copy to the house manager.
9. You are required to be employed full time, and you are not permitted to
quit a job without first discussing it with the house manager, (employment
status will be checked on periodically).
10. There are certain types of employment that are not allowed, and you must
speak with the house manager
prior to accepting employment with anyplace.
11. No cab driving, working in bars, clubs, or places that sell alcohol.
12. Your room must be kept neat, with your bed made at all times, rugs
vacuumed, toilet cleaned, kitchen area clean, which means absolutely no glasses,
dishes, forks, knives, spoons, etc. left in the sink at any time, and any trash
disposed of in a timely manner.
13. You will be assigned daily and weekend chores (these are mandatory as
part of your stay).
14. All vehicles will have current tags and insurance, and this must be
verifiable. Also, there will be no storage of vehicles, and no working on
vehicles on the premises.
15. Bikes and other modes of transportation must be stored in the appropriate
locations, and security for these are at your own cost.
16. Any situation that requires police involvement must be discussed with the
house manager before the police are called, (any police involvement without
house manager approval will be grounds for discharge).
17. There are absolutely no visitors allowed on premises without prior
approval from the house manager.
18. There will be no congregating outside, no loud music or discussions, no
walkmans, caps, sunglasses, bandanas, or inappropriate dress allowed, and you
are required to attend to daily hygiene needs.
19. No one is allowed in another residents room- period.
20. There are no sharing of clothes, personal property, loaning money,
borrowing vehicles, including bikes by either staff or residents.
21. You may be requested to submit to a U/A at any time, which may include
either with cause or without.
Also, another resident may request someone to be tested if a persons behavior
22. Any resident who is aware of a rules infraction and does not notify the
house manager immediately will be subject to discharge, which includes finding
out later that you knew about it.
23. All rooms are subject to inspections at any given time, and any room that
does not pass inspection may cause all residents in that room to be discharged.
24. Smoking is not allowed in rooms.
25. There will be no illegal hook-ups of cable, or use of cable boxes. Cable
hook-ups will be done legally, at your cost, and your risk. If bills are not
current you will be required to cut-off services until the bill is paid for.
26. Phone hook-ups are your responsibility, as are the bills that go along
27. Any cooking done by residents requires immediate clean-up.
28. Any delegation, directive, or request that is made by staff will then
become a rule.
29. Any medical conditions and/or injuries must be brought to the attention
of the house manager.
30. Calls to 911 for medical conditions, injuries, etc. must be approved by
the house manager before calling.
31. If there is an emergency, call 911, and then notify the house manager
32. Any and all medications, including pain pills, psych. meds, aspirin, Advil,
cold, flu, sinus, etc. will be kept, and locked up by the house manager and
dispensed according to the instructions on the bottle- any Rx. or
Over The Counter medications that have an unreadable label will be disposed
of. Also, failure to surrender any and all medications will cause you to be
33. House shut downs will occur if chores are not done, the grounds and
buildings are not cared for, rooms are not kept clean, or general attitudes are
not in line with house etiquette, and is done so at the discretion of the house
34. All rules and regulations are subject to additions and changes at the
house managers discretion.
This is not a complete list of all the possible rules and/or violations that
may happen, so to insure a healthy, happy, drug and alcohol free recovery
environment please do your part to use common sense when it comes to either
doing or not doing something that may affect yours and others continued stay.
Finally, staff will not take the role of cop, lawyer, or investigator. This
means discharges will occur without investigation of who did what, what was
said, who is, or who is not at fault.
DPLANE- DISCHARGE PLANNING / LEARNING AND NEGOTIATING ENTITIES- Assistance
for the individual, family, friends, employers, co-workers, counselors, case
1. Determine: If community resources for housing, basic needs, medical,
mental health, or similar resources are required. While the person is in
treatment, obtain a signed release of information form from the individual to
allow for contact of family members, local community resources, and human
service providers. Determine whether the person will be discharged, (the
treatment center should begin work on an appropriate discharge plan within a
couple of days from initial admission), to a community center, halfway house,
homeless shelter, or contract facility. If so, correspond with the facility
director to discuss plans for addressing the individuals physical,
psychological, social, or other special needs. If you are seeking treatment,
please go to the SAMHSA site for a national listing of treatment centers at ( http://www.samhsa.gov/
), or call 1-800-729-6686.
2. Basic Living Needs: Establish a key community contact person, or family,
or friend for basic needs (e.g., clothing, transportation, temporary shelter,
food). Local food stamp/welfare programs can be located using the U.S.
Department of Agriculture locator number, 1-800-221-5689 ( www.usda.gov/
). The United Way maintains contact lists of numerous non-profit social services
agencies. Use your local telephone book, the internet, or call the national
number at 1-703-836-7100 for offices in the persons release community.
3. Housing: If the person will release directly to the community, contact
local halfway way houses, or other housing facilities, (this should be
accomplished with the individuals attendance, along with the treatment centers
staff). Contact local shelters, residential programs, housing authorities, U.S.
Housing and Urban Development ( www.hud.gov/
) or non-profit missions for possible placements. Sober Houses has listings for
national halfway houses at ( http://www.soberhouses.com/
), or call / E-mail at 866-762-3747 / ( email@example.com
4. Medical: Medical issues should be considered (chronic health care, etc.).
Be aware about the individuals condition(s). If indigent, direct the individual
to available public health clinics or hospitals in their release communities for
health care and prescriptions. Call a local United Way ( www.unitedway.org
) agency to receive a list of support groups and services which are specific to
the medical condition. Also, the Health and Human Services Administration ( www.hhs.gov/
) site contains excellent resource links. You will find listings for doctors and
specialists, from A-Z at (http://www.nicd.us
under medical info).
5. HIV/AIDS / Hep C Services: An individual who is known to be infected with
the HIV virus or who has been diagnosed with AIDS can find an assortment of
services by calling the HIV/AIDS Treatment Center Information Service at
1-800-448-0440 or the individuals state department of health. The Centers for
Disease Control hotline at 1-800-342-2437 ( www.cdc.gov
), and the Access Project ( www.aidsinfonyc.org/adap
) maintain useful sites for HIV/AIDS individuals who need assistance accessing
treatment and prescription medications. Hep C Alert has numerous information and
support documents and listings at ( www.hep-c-alert.org/
6. Prescriptions: An individual may need ongoing medications to treat chronic
medical or mental health conditions. Persons who are indigent should be directed
to their local community clinics or public health hospitals to fill
prescriptions. If the person qualifies for SSA benefits, Medicaid will cover
medical and prescription care. Refer the individual to their local SSA office to
apply. Useful websites include: ( www.medicare.gov
), and ( www.needymeds.com/ ).
7. Dental: National networks of dentists and hygienists who offer care to
under-served populations may be found at Clinicians National Forum website ( www.cnf.org/
8. Mental Health: Contact a local Mental Health/Mental Retardation agency to
refer individuals for care. Contact the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill
whose staff can provide a list of MH resources for the individual at
1-800-950-6264 or ( www.nami.org/ ).
9. Substance Abuse/Aftercare/Maintenance: considering that the individual has
a history of alcohol or drug abuse, a referral to local Alcoholics Anonymous,
Narcotics Anonymous, or similar support groups may be made. Check with the
individuals treatment center Case Manager to ascertain if there is a court order
for aftercare as a condition of release. Many communities have specific programs
and services for the chemically addicted, and the individual should be
instructed to pursue these services. Information and referral services are
available through the National Clearing House for Alcohol and Drug Information
at 1-800-729-6686 ( www.samhsa.gov/
10. Social/Community Supports: Various support groups for individuals may be
available to them in their home communities. Contact a local United Way agency (
www.unitedway.org ) or a local
mental health association for information and referral services. Encourage the
individual to contact a local church, temple, or mosque for assistance.
11. Legal Aid (civil/family/child custody): Many communities have civil legal
aid services available (sliding scale fees or networks of pro bono attorneys).
Refer the individual to their local telephone directory which may list these
12. Income Sources: Direct the individual to their state/local employment or
work force office for assistance. If an individual received Social Security
benefits in the past, or you suspect that they are incapable of securing or
sustaining employment, call the Social Security Administration ( www.ssa.gov/
) at 1-800-772-1213 for benefits application and office locations. If needed,
refer the individual to their local county welfare office for public assistance.
13. Vocational Services: Refer the individual to their local
employment/rehabilitation commissions for job placement and training services.
Several social service agencies in the individuals release community may sponsor
ex-drinkers/addicts in job training and placement programs. Local United Way
agencies, like the Salvation Army (national office 1-703-684-5500 or ( www.salvationarmy.org/
), may be helpful. The U.S. Department of Labor is another contact for
vocational assistance (1-877-872-5627 or ( www.dol.gov/
14. US Veterans: An individual who was in the uniformed services may be
eligible for a host of rehabilitation, housing, and other services through the
Department of Veterans Affairs. Call 1-800-827-1000 or visit their site at ( www.va.gov/
) to establish eligibility, identify local facilities, or to enroll in
15. Sex Offenders: Sex Addicts Anonymous can be reached at 1-800-477-8191, or
visit their web site at ( www.sexaa.org/
). There are multiple agency links on this site.
16. Domestic Violence: A national hotline, 1-800-799-7233, is available to
provide info/referral services to individuals who have been victims of domestic
17. Seniors: An assortment of services for the aged can be accessed through
state offices of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) which can be
accessed through ( www.aarp.org/ ) .
The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aged at ( www.aahsa.org/
) has numerous community links.
(This link will take you to the government resources page)
Americans with Disabilities Act
Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) Checklist for Buildings and Facilities
Complaint against DOJ
employee or DOJ funded organization
Brought to you by,
Dr. Stephen J. Murray, NICD Director
*Disclaimer: NICD has brought this article to you as a
public service. NICD is not held liable for any actions or non-actions you may
take as a result of reading this article. The contents of this article were
researched via the Internet and the content is not owned or copyrighted by NICD;
therefore, any information listed is done so from sources that specify what is
stated in this article (ADA, Fair Housing Acts Amendment, Government Sources,
Court Documents, and all other resources obtained through legal practices). NICD
is only taking the stance of passing along the information in this article as it was discovered via
the Internet; hence, it is not the opinion or suggestions of NICD as to the
validity of the information stated and the ultimate decision any person or
agency may decide to take upon reading such information. Your ultimate decision
on how to proceed with the opening of a halfway house, recovery home, etc. is
done so at your own risk. NICD advises you to do your own research into the laws
of your own State, County, Country, etc. before taking any action.