Supportive housing helps people in recovery from addiction as they begin to transition back to normal life after treatment.
More than 40 million people in the United States had a substance use disorder in 2020. Addiction is a chronic disease with relapse rates between 40% and 60%. Ongoing support is particularly important during early recovery when people are most vulnerable to relapse.
Supportive housing, also called recovery housing, can provide vital support in a transitional living space for people in recovery after they complete an addiction treatment program. Supportive housing can help to minimize substance misuse and relapse, improve medical and mental health status, enhance overall quality of life, and sustain recovery.
What Is Supportive Housing?
Supportive housing is a type of residence where people in recovery can live after leaving an addiction treatment program (often a residential, or inpatient, program) and before integrating fully back into regular life.
Addiction is a chronic condition, meaning that people in recovery can benefit from extra support, especially directly after completing an addiction treatment program. Healthy habits can take some time to build and solidify. Supportive housing environments can provide a safe space to start to transition back into society.
Supportive housing is a sober living environment where people in recovery can live together with a certain amount of structure. Recovery residences can vary in type, structure, and demographic of the population.
Typically, these supportive housing environments encourage peer-to-peer support. They can also offer clinical services while providing a safe and healthy environment to help individuals build resources to live more independently while sustaining long-term recovery.
Types of Supportive Housing
The National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) divides recovery residences into levels of support from level 1 through level 4 based on how much structure and what types of services a person in recovery from addiction might require. Typically, the lower levels of support provide at the very minimum peer-to-peer recovery support, while higher levels often include medical and clinical services, such as counseling and therapy.
- Level 1: Peer-run recovery residences
- Level 2: Monitored recovery residences
Sober living homes
- Level 3: Supervised housing
More structured sober living homes or halfway houses
- Level 4: Residential treatment housing
Halfway houses or residences connected to an addiction treatment center
Most supportive housing environments will have their own set of specific rules. Residents are required to remain drug- and alcohol-free while completing chores around the house. Residents may also be required to attend 12-step or support group meetings or continue with outpatient treatment services like counseling and therapy sessions.
Recovery residences can be specifically for men or women only or for women and their children. They may be based on age, language, or medication status, and some cater to individuals recently released from prison.
Peer-Run Recovery Residences
This type of Level 1 supportive housing is run by the residents directly. One of the most common types is an Oxford House.
Each of the residents is responsible for holding their peers (the other residents) accountable and helping to promote a drug-free environment. There are no paid staff members or services offered on site.
These recovery residences are typically single family homes. The main condition for living in one is a desire to remain drug- and alcohol-free. Support groups, meetings, and recovery support services are encouraged, but they are not typically required.
These homes can be cost-effective, offering robust support for an affordable price. Residents can usually stay as long as they need, ranging from 90 days to a few years.
Sober Living Homes
A sober living home, or sober living residence, is typically a community-based environment that is overseen by an on-site staff member who will monitor and enforce the rules of the house. Sober living homes are most often single family residences with shared bedrooms; however, they can be any type of domicile.
Sober living homes emphasize peer support. There is often some type of programming offered on site, which can include peer support group meetings or collaborative services with outpatient programs.
The term halfway house is used often, but it typically refers specifically to homes that house individuals with a criminal background who are transitioning out of prison or those who have come directly from a residential addiction treatment program.
Halfway houses are typically more structured and closely monitored. They usually have a specific set of criteria needed to reside there as well as a set amount of time you can stay.
Case managers and outpatient addiction service providers are contracted with these supportive homes, and they often offer life skills training sessions and recovery services to support a long-term recovery. They can also be directly connected to a residential treatment facility for a smooth transition and full continuum of care.
A sober companion is someone who lives with a person to offer support, mentorship, and direct accountability during recovery. Sober companions will reside with the individual for a period of weeks to two years to guide them and keep them accountable during early recovery while transitioning back to life after addiction treatment.
Benefits of Supportive Housing
Addiction is a disease that makes changes to the way the brain works, altering how a person feels, thinks, and acts. Addiction is wholly treatable, but it can take some time for the brain to reset. Habits can also take time to fully form.
Transitional supportive housing environments can be a great option to achieve and sustain recovery while minimizing drug use and the chances of a relapse. Ultimately, sober living environments provide a stable, supportive, and safe place for individuals in recovery to live with others who have similar circumstances and sobriety goals.
Sober living homes are proven to have the following benefits:
- Reduced drug and alcohol use
- Higher rates of gainful employment
- Fewer mental health issues
- Fewer arrests
Costs of Supportive Housing
Costs for supporting housing can vary based on a variety of factors, such as these:
- Level of care
- Number of people living there
- Type of support needed
Generally, sober living environments that have more roommates and fewer paid staff members are going to cost less, while those offering higher levels of support and care are going to cost more. Prices can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars a month.
There are a range of options available to defray the costs of supportive housing as well, such as insurance, grants, and payment programs.
How Supportive Housing Works
Transitioning back into everyday life can come with a host of stressors that can be risk factors for relapse. A sober living environment aims to guard against some of these stressors. If people live in a safe, sober house, they are better able to build healthy habits and deal with triggers that arise.
Often, an individual will complete a residential addiction treatment program before moving into support housing. After exiting that program, they can use a little more support and help before returning back to their “before” life.
Supportive housing can give them the opportunity to live with other people with similar goals. They can continue to develop the tools learned in treatment and access resources necessary to sustain recovery, learning how to become more self-sufficient and independent in the process.
Individuals can often go directly into a sober living environment from addiction treatment, and they will need to follow the rules of the specific house to continue living there. This can include the following responsibilities:
- Completing daily chores
- Taking regular drug tests
- Attendance at 12-step group meetings
- Looking for a job or going back to work
- Adhering to specific rules about visitors and curfews
- Continuing with recovery services
Where to Find Supportive Housing
There are many resources available when it comes to looking for supportive housing. Addiction treatment programs often partner with these establishments for a full continuum of care and can therefore offer information on local options. Every state has a health department as well that can provide resources.
Here are some additional resources:
Reviewed By: Peter Manza, PhD
- Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2020-nsduh-annual-national-report. October 2021. Accessed August 2022.
- Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery. July 2020. Accessed August 2022.
- A Primer on Recovery Residences: FAQs from the National Association on Recovery Residences (NARR). National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR). http://narronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Primer-on-Recovery-Residences-09-20-2012a.pdf. September 2012. Accessed August 2022.
- Oxford House. Oxford House, Inc. https://www.oxfordhouse.org/. Accessed August 2022.
- Sober Living Houses for Alcohol and Drug Dependence: 18-Month Outcomes. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20299175/. June 2010. Accessed August 2022.
- FindTreatment.gov. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://findtreatment.gov/. Accessed August 2022.
- Find a Halfway House Near You. Halfway House Directory. https://www.halfwayhousedirectory.com/. 2021. Accessed August 2022.
- National Alliance for Recovery Residences. https://narronline.org/. Accessed August 2022.
- Directory of Oxford Houses. Oxford House, Inc. https://www.oxfordhouse.org/house-directory. Accessed August 2022.
- Sober Companions. https://www.sobercompanions.com/. Accessed August 2022.
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