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How to Open a Halfway House Or a Recovery Home
To 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. 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.
Just 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. Havingchemically dependent persons in a home is no different!!! Alcoholics and addicts have the same laws to protect them.
It 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.
If 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, etc.
On 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…
NATIONAL 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.
The 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.
You 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 zoning department.
Most 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.
There are some overhead details to work out before you start taking in residents. 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.
Fair Housing Act
A 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.
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, policies, practices.
providing some resources that you can use in starting up a program.
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
Note: Please feel free to copy/print this page, as we have waived the copyright for this page only.
Some additional concerns you may encounter:
The next section has some rules 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.
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 meeting.
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 verified.
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
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.
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
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 with it.
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 immediately.
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
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 manager.
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
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.
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 or any other time.
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.).
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