A Guide to Halfway Houses

Halfway houses are government-funded transitional housing for individuals that have completed an addiction treatment program. Other halfway house residents may include former prison inmates or homeless individuals working on addiction recovery.

Types of Transitional Living

Halfway houses provide people in recovery with an alcohol and drug-free environment to continue to focus on their early sobriety. During their stay, residents will participate in additional treatment services, including attending support groups and practicing life skills to help them after they leave.

There are various options to consider when looking for a drug-free living environment. However, there are significant differences between halfway houses, sober homes, and rehab centers. Selecting the right option for yourself or a loved one will come down to the specific treatment options you may need and the stage of addiction recovery.

Halfway Houses

A halfway house is a sober living facility intended to be a transitional living environment for recovering addicts. Unlike rehab, halfway houses provide structure and support without ongoing addiction treatment.

Residents of halfway houses will likely be required to attend therapy or 12-step program meetings as part of the house requirements, but halfway houses themselves do not provide addiction treatment. Instead, they serve as a safe and supportive environment where recovering addicts can continue to work on their early sobriety.

Halfway houses have a time limit of 12 months maximum residency, which is different from sober homes’ time limit. Halfway houses are funded by the government and offer less privacy but more structure than alternative sober living communities.

Sober Living Homes

Sober living houses, also known as recovery homes, are somewhat different from halfway houses. First, sober living homes are privately owned. Sober recovery residences can be run by businesses, religious groups, or private individuals, while halfway homes are government-funded.

Second, sober living provides a more private experience. Halfway houses offer a dorm-like setting, while sober homes are in quiet residential areas. Sober living environments also tend to be less strict than halfway houses, and residents of a sober living facility are allowed to come and go.

Finally, rehab is not a prerequisite requirement to sign up for a sober home, but residents of halfway houses must have completed rehab before their stay.

Drug Rehab

Unlike halfway houses or sober living homes, drug rehab provides active treatment for substance use disorders from the earliest stages of addiction treatment. Rehab programs are also available at different levels, from inpatient treatment to a few outpatient treatment programs.

Inpatient treatment centers are also residential and allow recovering addicts to live at the facility for 30-90 days. During inpatient care, patients will participate in different types of therapy and support groups. Inpatient rehab does not allow patients to leave the facility until their program is complete.

Outpatient substance abuse treatment comes in a few different tiers, the most common being Partial Hospitalization (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP). Partial hospitalization programs more closely reflect the daily schedule of an inpatient treatment center, except for allowing patients to return home at the end of each day’s treatment.

On the other hand, intensive outpatient programs are even less intensive treatment providers, and IOPs require only a few hours per day for roughly 90 days. Like PHPs and inpatient rehab, an IOP will also provide behavioral health support in the form of therapy and similar programs.

Inpatient rehab centers can also provide on-site detox services to aid the recovering addict through the early stages of acute withdrawals. However, medical detox can also happen on an outpatient basis. Alternatively, halfway homes and sober living homes require individuals to have already completed detox.

What Does Living in a Halfway House Involve?

Living in a halfway house will provide you or your loved one with a safe, drug-free (and alcohol-free) environment. At a halfway house, you will continue working on your early recovery while enjoying the peer support of your fellow recovering housemates.

Some halfway house rules will be relatively universal, requiring clean breathalyzer and drug tests to remain living there. Other regulations or details will vary based on the individual house, such as specific times for curfew or alcohol/drug testing frequency.

Halfway House Requirements for Residents

To be accepted for residency at a halfway house, there are specific universal requirements that a person will need to meet. You’ll also want to check with the individual halfway house ahead of time to see if there are any resident requirements specific to that facility.

The general residency requirements for admission to a halfway house include:

  • Completion of inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program
  • The applicant is self-sufficient for hygiene and basic needs
  • Clear drug test; no signs of recent drug abuse or alcohol abuse

What Is the Average Length of Stay at a Halfway House?

A typical participant will live at a halfway house for 3-12 months, with a maximum time limit of 12 months allowed for average residents. Federal prisoners are usually only approved for 12 months, but there is no limit to how long a federal prisoner may be placed in a halfway home.

Suppose you or your loved one feels the need to continue living in a sober community environment after your stay at a halfway home. In that case, you might want to look into sober living houses as the next step in your recovery journey.

What to Expect in a Halfway House?

Halfway houses are less disciplined than inpatient rehab centers but slightly more regulated than sober homes. There are also house rules that are specific to each halfway home.

Halfway homes are managed by licensed drug counselors, therapists, and other similar healthcare personnel. Daily life is structured around group therapy or individual counseling sessions, support groups, and other aftercare programs.

Residents will be allowed to leave to attend work, family obligations, religious observation, 12-step meetings, etc. Residents can expect random drug testing or alcohol screening to show that they are still sober.

Typical Rules for a Halfway House

Every halfway house will have its own set of house rules, but these house rules tend to be relatively common amongst halfway homes.

Typical house rules will include:

  • Involvement in a 12-step program (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) or similar support group
  • No violence or theft
  • No weapons on-premises
  • Adherence to curfew (time will vary per house)
  • Passing alcohol or drug screenings
  • Attending house meetings
  • No overnight guests
  • Contributing to household chores
  • General hygiene and upkeep of personal space

Many halfway houses also require that residents maintain a job or continue actively going to school.

Benefits of Halfway Houses

Living in a halfway house can be a great bridge between finishing your rehab program and returning to your regular life. A halfway house will give you more time to transition, but it also provides a robust support system of sober peers to encourage you.

Some additional benefits of choosing a halfway house are:

  • Affordability. Halfway houses are less expensive than sober houses, and some halfway houses may also be eligible for insurance coverage.
  • Structure. While not as rigid as a rehab schedule, the daily regimen at a halfway house provides much-needed structure to help recovering addicts stick to good habits.
  • Accountability. Living with fellow peers will help you stay accountable for your sobriety. You’ll be pitching in to help with chores around the house. Together, you’ll create an environment based on trust and respect.

Is a Halfway House Right for Me?

While halfway houses provide an excellent and affordable sober living community, there may be some disadvantages to a halfway home for certain people.

Halfway houses have a maximum limit of 12 months for residency, and for someone looking to establish a long-term sober living environment, a halfway house may not be ideal.

Halfway homes have fewer amenities than sober homes. Halfway homes may be ideal for some individuals because it offers fewer distractions; however, some may want more amenities to help them focus on their post-rehab habits.

Halfway houses are also much less restrictive than residential rehab. Some recovering addicts may struggle with too much freedom and need more of a residential rehab center’s structure.

Court-Ordered Halfway Houses

Some halfway house residents might be there because the court has required it as part of a sentence. While halfway houses assist recovering addicts, former inmates may come to live at a halfway house after finishing a prison sentence.

In both cases, the halfway house provides a structure for its residents. Halfway house staff helps recovering addicts and former inmates reintegrate back into society while living in a controlled environment.

The NIMBY Effect (Not In My Back Yard)

Unfortunately, halfway houses sometimes earn a bad reputation. Halfway houses are usually located in residential areas, and occasionally neighboring homes and businesses are opposed to the idea of the halfway house being in their community.

Common concerns of communities about halfway houses usually stem from a fear of disruptive behavior, lowered property values, excess noise, or additional traffic. However, research shows that halfway houses are not disruptive to their communities and have little impact at all.

How Effective Are Halfway Houses?

According to research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, halfway houses and sober homes are highly effective in the ongoing treatment of substance use disorder.

Halfway homes and sober houses have high retention rates, and the individuals that commit to 90 days or more were overall much more likely to remain sober both at the halfway house and for months afterward.

Cost of Halfway Houses

Halfway houses tend to cost less money than sober living houses, but the overall cost can vary depending on location, amenities, etc. You can expect to spend anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars at a halfway home.

Does Insurance Cover Halfway Houses?

The good news is that because halfway houses are government-funded, many insurance companies (especially Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act) will cover the cost of your stay. You’ll want to check with your insurance carrier to see what coverage they will offer for a stay at a halfway home.

Does a Halfway House Sound Like the Right Fit?

Take a look at the halfway houses in your area by using the SAMHSA program locator.

Reviewed by:Chris Carberg

Addiction Guide Founder & Mental Health Advocate

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Chris Carberg is a visionary digital entrepreneur, the Founder of Addiction Guide, and a long-time recovering addict from prescription opioids, sedatives, and alcohol.  Over the past 15 years, Chris has worked as a tireless advocate for addicts and their loved ones, while becoming a sought-after digital entrepreneur. Chris is a storyteller and aims to share his story with others in the hopes of helping them achieve their own recovery.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

7 references
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  2. Jason, L. A., Groh, D. R., Durocher, M., Alvarez, J., Aase, D. M., & Ferrari, J. R. (2008, September 1). Counteracting ‘not in my backyard’: The positive effects of greater occupancy within Mutual-Help Recovery Homes. Journal of community psychology. Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3205983

  3. Polcin, D. L., Korcha, R., Bond, J., & Galloway, G. (2010, December). What did we learn from our study on sober living houses and where do we go from here? Journal of psychoactive drugs. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057870

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  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, September 18). Principles of effective treatment. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

  6. Understanding the nimby and Lulu … – journals.sagepub.com. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0885412206295845

  7. When is a prisoner released to a halfway house? – lawyers. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2022, from https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/criminal/criminal-law-basics/when-is-a-prisoner-released-to-a-halfway-house.html

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