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What Is A Halfway House?

What is A Halfway House? | Just Believe Recovery
In This Article

The textbook definition of a halfway house is: an institute for people with criminal backgrounds or abusive drug tendencies to reintegrate into society, learn necessary skills, and better support themselves. The halfway house acts as both a residence and treatment center for the residents. Psychiatric, medical, social, and educational services are provided to residents during their stay at the halfway house.

Halfway houses earned their name because they are the “halfway point” between independent living and in-patient or correctional facilities. Residents can slowly integrate into society without the limitations of an in-patient or correctional facility where their freedoms are severely restricted.

Types of Halfway Houses

There are two standard models of halfway houses. In one type, patients are assessed upon admission to the halfway house. They are assessed based on their type of disability, ability to reintegrate into society, and how long it should reasonably take them to do so.

Patients in the first type of halfway house are admitted into large, open, same sex dormitories similar to a gymnasium or military base. As patients become more comfortable with their new lifestyle, and start to learn more skills, they transition to their own apartment-style living. Eventually, toward the end of a patient’s stay there, they may only have a few roommates, because the others have moved on successfully.

The other main type of halfway house is set up in an opposite format. Patients are admitted to individual rooms and are given one-to-one care and services. As the residents become more well-adjusted, and familiar with their skills, they are moved into bigger dorm rooms with more roommates. By the end of their stay in this type of halfway house, a resident may be boarding with 100 other roommates.

These models of halfway house can be used for inmates that have just been released from prison, people with mental health issues, or people recovering from substance abuse. The facilities for prison inmates and mentally-ill patients are typically state-sponsored. The ones operated for drug and alcohol recovery are called “sober living houses” and are typically operated as for-profit businesses. Sober living houses are primarily what will be discussed in this article.

It’s also important to note that there are differences in the definition of halfway house depending on where you are in the world. If you were to ask someone from the United Kingdom: “what is a halfway house”, they would have a different answer than someone from the United States.


In State and local governments, halfway houses are met with some resistance due to the NIMBY effect. NIMBY is an acronym used in city planning which stands for: Not In My Backyard(NIMBY).

The basic idea behind the NIMBY effect is that people don’t like the idea of a halfway house near their house. Especially if it’s a halfway house for recently-released inmates. Some may feel this is an unfair judgement placed on halfway houses but, unfortunately, some neighborhoods can influence local politics enough to have halfway houses relocated.

Who Are Halfway Houses For

Halfway houses don’t typically restrict who can live there, but they may have a few guidelines set up to protect the safety and effectiveness of their facility. Patients are usually required to pass a drug test or breathalyzer in order to stay there, and halfway houses typically work best for people who have been through some form of treatment already.

Halfway houses are a better option for patients than in-patient facilities, because the patients have more freedom and can start to live life normally again. Because of this freedom, however, halfway house facilities have rules in place to make sure everyone stays on track.

House Rules

Rules at a halfway house can vary from location to location, but typically revolve around these things:

  • Residents need to stay sober
  • Residents have chores around the house that need to be completed to show they’re contributing
  • No fighting
  • Need to follow a curfew
  • Must attend 12-step program meetings, or attend another program
  • Residents can’t steal or destroy another resident’s property
  • Residents should be pursuing a job if they don’t already have one.

Costs of A Halfway House

The cost of a sober living home can vary depending upon the facility. Facilities can be as cheap as $100 a month, and go as high as $2,000 a month. However, most sober living houses fall in the range of $400-$800 a month, depending on where you live.

Some families may have a hard time financially supporting the cost of a halfway house for a loved one. However, there are different ways you can support the cost:

  • A payment plan through the facility
  • Grants/Scholarships
  • Bank loans
  • Credit Cards
  • Borrowing
  • Insurance

You’ll need to check with your insurance company to see how much would be covered, and if there would be a co-pay, but more often than not health insurance plans do have some sort of coverage for sober living houses.

Choosing The Right One

Now that we’ve covered “what is a halfway house”, it’s time to talk about how to choose the one that best fits you or your family member. Every person, and every facility, is different. It really comes down to the individual and what you or your family can afford.

Choosing a halfway house is a tough, emotional decision as well. Doing some research on the facility up-front is very important. It also makes sense to get recommendations from a doctor or therapist if you’re seeing one, or if you’re going through a 12-step program you can get a recommendation from them as well.

The First Day of The Rest of Your Life

Many people struggle with addiction or substance abuse. Sobriety can be a tough, rocky road but facilities like halfway houses make the transition easier for anybody going through it.

It may seem like sobriety, and being free of dependence on drugs or alcohol, is hundreds of miles away but the journey starts with the first step.

Whether you’re looking to admit yourself, or talk to a loved one about getting help, the question of “what is a halfway house” may come up. We hope, now, that you have the information necessary to make the best, most-informed decision for you and your family. And if you’re interested in discussing your options in more detail, reach out to us to answer any of your questions.

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: What Is a Sober Companion?


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