Transitional Housing: How to Find the Right Recovery Residence

Finding aftercare, or additional support and services following completion of a drug rehab program may involve some type of transitional housing, such as a halfway house or a sober living home. Recently relabelled “recovery residences” by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR), the leading organization seeking to codify regulations for this industry. Currently, there are few formal regulations nationwide, and the facilities used for transitional housing, sober home living, and recovery residency can vary greatly.

Rebuilding your life after a substance use disorder can be challenging. While some individuals benefit from the intensive structure of inpatient rehab, others may thrive in a supportive living environment. The United States offers a variety of options, from sober living facilities and recovery houses to transitional housing programs. These community-based living spaces provide a safe and structured environment focused on recovery.

Transitional housing describes living accommodations that are supportive and temporary, usually meant to bridge a gap between short-term homeless shelters and permanent housing. Transitional housing is also used by individuals in need of accommodations following drug rehab, medical or psychiatric hospitalization, incarceration, or any other life-disrupting circumstance. Halfway houses and sober homes/recovery residences are specifically designed to accommodate individuals who are seeking not only temporary housing but also support for living a drug or alcohol-free lifestyle.

Unlike traditional housing, sober living comes with built-in support. Think house meetings, shared experiences with people in recovery, and access to recovery programs. Living spaces vary widely, but most prioritize a drug-free environment, often with regular testing (like urine samples) to ensure accountability. A positive test for illicit drugs typically leads to consequences, but the goal is always to support your recovery journey, not punish you.


Types of Transitional Housing

Halfway Houses

Halfway houses are typically “re-entry” facilities for individuals who recently left the criminal justice system and are currently under supervision, perhaps by a probation or parole officer. Sometimes, but not always, halfway house residents are mandated to live at such a facility. But halfway houses also rent to other individuals who are not mandated to live there.

Halfway houses have more restrictions than sober living homes, especially when serving court-ordered clients, who may qualify for government funding to pay for their rent. There is usually a limit (often several months) on how long a resident can stay at a halfway house. Residents must also be enrolled in some type of formal treatment program, though treatment is not typically offered at halfway houses.

Sober Living Homes

Sober living homes, or recovery residences, have many similarities to halfway houses. All these residences have strict rules prohibiting drug or alcohol use; residents are required to share household chores; and residents are usually mandated to undergo random drug testing. But in recovery residences, renters are not required to live at a certain location, and they can usually remain at the house as long as they wish, if they follow house regulations.

The average residency at a recovery residence home is about one year, and some residents may stay several years. 

Recovery Residences

Recovery residences also typically do not provide formal counseling, but they often hold in-house 12-Step meetings and have informal social gatherings for residents. In general, compared to halfway house residents, recovery residence occupants share more social support with their fellow residents, and they are more likely to hold one another accountable and engage in helping one another in recovery.

While there are usually no formal staff at recovery residences, many residences do have a “house manager” who handles the admission processing for new residents, enforces house rules, and oversees all activities at the household. If drug tests are included in the residency requirements, the house manager does the testing.

How to Find a Recovery Residence Rental

Individuals who are court-ordered to live at a halfway house are often assigned a specific residency that is convenient for their supervision needs. Most recovery residences are located in single family homes in neighborhoods, near public transportation. Recovery residences don’t typically use commercial advertising methods, such as television, newspaper, or magazine ads. They are often listed, however, in local internet postings. Caseworkers and counselors may also keep abreast of local options for recovery residence rentals.

How Much do Sober Living Homes Cost?

The cost of living in a halfway house, sober home, or recovery residence involves not only the rent, but also other expenses such as food, laundry supplies, and other daily needs. Expenses may also include the cost of drug tests if they are required. The residence usually covers the cost of utilities, internet, and cable service. Rent varies according to the rates common in each state, but because the space is shared, rents are typically a bit lower than the cost of a single-person home rental.

On average, a person might expect to pay $200-$400 a week to live at a recovery residence. Rent is usually paid weekly, one week in advance.

State and federal subsidies may sometimes cover the cost of rent, particularly if the residency is court-ordered). However, recovery residence rental payments are most often the responsibility of the renter. With few exceptions for residences that are contracted with a criminal justice program to provide clinical services, insurance does not cover recovery residences. However, there are nonprofit organizations that offer grants to cover the first weeks’ rent for incoming recovery residence occupants. This arrangement must usually be set up before the client moves in, so the prospective resident should ask the house manager about such grants before finalizing the rental agreement. 

Research Shows Benefits of Sober Home & Recovery Residence Living

There is evidence that moving into a sober home/recovery residence following drug rehab treatment increases the likelihood that sobriety will be maintained. A study by the American Journal of Alcohol and Drug Abuse found that individuals who lived in recovery residences (termed sober homes in the report) remained more active in ongoing treatment and demonstrated improved treatment milestones regarding education, psychological testing, psychological interviews, and treatment plan updates at a 6-month follow-up interview than those who did not live in a sober home environment.

In addition, the researchers concluded that “involvement in 12-step groups proved to be the strongest predictor of primary outcomes” showing greater success.

Rules for Living in Recovery Residence Homes

The rules for individual recovery residence homes vary, but there are some generally accepted, common requirements for residency. These include:

  • No drugs or alcohol are allowed on the premises.
  • Residents may be required to submit to random drug and alcohol testing.
  • If a resident fails a drug test, they must immediately vacate the home, and they will not be reimbursed for any portion of the remaining weekly rental payment.
  • A curfew is generally required.
  • Residents are responsible for sharing household chores.
  • Residents must typically participate in weekly house meetings and 12-Step meetings if they are held at the residence.
  • Residents should attend outside 12-step meetings at least once a week.
  • Residents must sleep at the sober living house most nights (usually five nights per week), with few exceptions for travel.
  • Residents may be required to maintain employment.
  • Residents cannot have overnight guests.
  • Residents must be current with the payment of rent and any other expenses that may be included in the rental agreement.

Additional Services That May be Offered at Recovery Residences

Most recovery residences do not provide professional addiction therapy, so residents must use a community therapist, doctor, or treatment center to continue working on their addiction treatment plan. However, many sober homes do have “in-house” 12-Step meetings and/or rules for mandatory weekly attendance at outside 12-Step meetings.

Only a few recovery residences provide licensed professional mental health staff who deliver clinical services. These are designated “Level 4 supervised recovery residences” by NARR and are usually associated with an institutional program, such as a criminal justice system program. Halfway houses offer no therapy or addiction programming, but a resident’s caseworker or justice system supervisor, such as a probation officer, may require that the client attend treatment at an outside community facility.

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