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The Role & Importance of Halfway Houses in Supporting Recovery & Reintegration

A halfway house is a facility that serves as a transition for people in substance abuse recovery who have finished addiction rehab or incarceration but are not yet ready to start living on their own.

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Here are some of the key tenets of halfway houses:

Key Facts

  • Halfway houses have strict rules regarding sobriety and discipline that must be followed.
  • Eligibility for a halfway house often requires completion of an inpatient treatment program and a set duration of sobriety.
  • Residents will be given job training and further counseling before they are ready to leave the house and start living on their own.

What Is a Halfway House?

A halfway house is a transitional residence that is intended to support people recovering from substance abuse and addiction by offering a structured and supportive environment for their recovery.[1,2] It essentially serves as a halfway point between more structured treatment and living on your own. 

Halfway houses have strict rules, such as requirements that residents abide by curfew hours, participate in counseling sessions, and stay sober. These guidelines foster an environment of responsibility and accountability. To this end, halfway houses usually use drug tests to ensure residents aren’t misusing drugs or alcohol


Halfway houses offer a variety of support services.[3] While there is a good amount of variation between houses, most have a trained and diverse staff available to help residents. A house manager may be responsible for daily operations and enforcing house rules. Some halfway houses have licensed healthcare workers who can administer necessary medications and address other health concerns of residents. Therapists and counselors may be on hand to provide emotional and psychological support.

Beyond healthcare, employment specialists offer assistance in applying for jobs and long-term budget planning. Case managers may help residents reunite with their families and pursue educational opportunities.

As part of ongoing recovery, life skills training gives residents the practical tools they need to live on their own, covering everything from interpersonal communication to learning job skills and financial management.[4]

Types of Halfway Houses

People often use the terms halfway house and sober living home interchangeably, but they are separate types of facilities. 

Halfway houses can be state-run or federally sponsored, and they are often used to house people who are exiting incarceration.[5] Sober living homes are often connected to addiction rehab centers, and clients transition to this environment after they’ve completed a structured rehab program.

While inpatient rehab facilities offer round-the-care support and treatment, both sober living homes and halfway houses allow for more independent living. There is variation in the level of structure, professional support, and amenities offered in each type of facility. 

Here is how halfway houses compare to sober living homes and inpatient treatment facilities at a glance:

Halfway HousesSober Living HomesInpatient Facilities
RulesStructured rules, including curfews, mandatory counseling, and drug testingRules vary, with an emphasis on abstinence, some structure, and support servicesStrict rules and regulations governing daily activities and abstinence from substance abuse, with a highly controlled environment
Duration of StayTypically a few months to a year, providing a transitional phase from intensive treatment or incarceration to independent livingFlexible, often long-term, allowing residents to stay as long as needed for sustained recoveryShort-term to medium-term, ranging from a few weeks to a few months, providing intensive, focused treatment
Provided ServicesStructured support, counseling, employment assistance, and community-building activities; potential access to mental health professionalsPeer support, varied levels of professional oversight with a focus on community,  support group meeting, and abstinenceComprehensive medical and therapeutic services, 24/7 monitoring, individual and group therapy, and specialized treatment plans

Halfway House Rules

The rules in a halfway house generally include the following:

  • Abstinence from substances of abuse
  • Drug testing
  • Curfews
  • Chores
  • Attendance at counseling or therapy meetings 
  • Compliance with all house guidelines

These rules ensure each resident’s safety and promote recovery. To instill routine and responsibility, structured schedules create a sense of mental and behavioral discipline. 

Breaking the halfway house’s rules can have consequences. There are usually warnings for first and minor infractions, but repeated and serious violations could result in eviction from the house. The idea is to maintain a strictly therapeutic environment, one that increases the residents’ chances of maintaining a successful recovery, so they can eventually transition to independent living. 

Eligibility Criteria for Halfway Houses

Eligibility for a halfway house will depend on the specifics of each individual facility, as they vary according to the type of house. 

Some federal and state-run halfway houses are dedicated to those exiting the criminal justice system.[6] In some cases, eligibility to reside at a halfway house is mandated by a court. Private halfway houses may be focused on individuals exiting particular addiction treatment programs.

Most facilities require that residents meet these criteria: 

  • Completion of a drug treatment program  
  • Commitment to maintaining sobriety
  • Defined period of time sober 
  • Commitment to following the house’s rules, including keeping all substances of abuse off the premises and passing drug tests

Applying for residency usually involves submitting an application and undergoing a suitability assessment. Documentation that is part of the application includes proof of completing a treatment program, character references (from treatment providers and/or probation officers and court officials), and a signed pledge to follow the rules of the house. 

The Cost of a Halfway House

The costs of staying at a halfway house vary from state to state.[7] Some offer subsidized or state-funded options, while other states rely exclusively on private funding. 

Residents of halfway houses may be on the hook to pay for program fees, utilities, and rent. Depending on the type of house and the degree of care, some halfway houses can cost as little as $100 a month or as much as $2,000 a month (or even more). Most cost between $400 and $800 monthly.[7]

These costs can be paid out of pocket, through insurance, or through government assistance programs. Based on a resident’s income or savings, some halfway houses may offer financial assistance, such as a sliding scale program. 

Residents are expected to financially contribute to their stay. This creates a sense of responsibility and investment for the residents and their journey.

What to Expect Post Residency

After a resident leaves a halfway house, they are encouraged to keep participating in follow-up programs that will continue to support their ongoing recovery. Such programs may include assistance in using community resources, connections with support groups, and further counseling as well as those dealing with employment, education, and other forms of social reengagement. These programs have been shown to prevent future drug abuse behaviors.[8] 

Having support systems after leaving a halfway house is vital because it helps a former resident maintain the emotional and mental growth from their time there. It creates a tangible goal for successfully reintegrating into society. 

The Role of Halfway Houses in Recovery

Halfway houses offer wide-ranging support for people in recovery through structured living, counseling, peer support, and community integration. They are a vital component of building sobriety and life skills, bridging hands-on treatment and independent living. Additionally, they create a supportive environment that addresses long-term well-being. 

For people looking for sobriety and a guided path back into society after a substance abuse problem, researching options for the right kind of halfway house or sober living home can open many opportunities for recovery and successfully re-entering society.[9] 

Updated February 18, 2024
  1. Why halfway houses have grown in Ohio. Andrew J. Tobias. Cleveland. Published November 24, 2015. Accessed February 10, 2024.
  2. Practice profile: Halfway houses. National Institute of Justice, Crime Solutions. Published September 3, 2019. Accessed February 10, 2024.
  3. Best practices for recovery housing. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published 2023. Accessed February 10, 2024.
  4. Effect of life skills training on drug abuse preventive behaviors among university students. Moshki M, Hassanzade T, Taymoori P. International Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014;5(5):577-583.
  5. “A prison in your community”: Halfway houses and the melding of treatment and control. O’Brien CJ. Journal of American History. 2021;108(1):93-117.
  6. See a new tiny-home community where former inmates can live for free to get back on their feet. Pandy J. Business Insider. Accessed February 10, 2024.
  7. What is a sober living home? Forbes. Silva, L. Published July 14, 2023. Accessed February 10, 2024.
  8. What did we learn from our study on sober living houses and where do we go from here? Polcin DL, Korcha R, Bond J, Galloway G. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2010;42(4):425-433.
  9. Road to recovery - Drug recovery court debuts sober living homes. Writer MWTS. Citizen Tribune. Published February 12, 2024. Accessed February 10, 2024.
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