Recovery from substance abuse is a long road. Getting the right treatment in a timely manner is very important, but it is also essential to surround yourself with support systems at home. Fortunately, ‘sober living’ options exist for patients who are in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse.

Whether you’ve just gone through detox or finished an inpatient rehab program, halfway houses and sober living communities can provide a supportive and substance-free environment in recovery.

Halfway Houses vs Other Types of Sober Living

There is some confusion over what halfway houses are, and what sets them apart from other sober living communities. The term ‘halfway house’ has been stigmatized because it can also refer to housing used for prison inmates after they are released. 

The truth is, a halfway house can refer to just about any sober living community. The term is used interchangeably with other names for sober living these days. Other names include:

  • Recovery house
  • Sober living home
  • Oxford home
  • Dry house
  • Residential reentry center

Originally, ‘halfway house’ was a term that only referred to state-funded sober living homes. Some of these communities are funded by the government, but most of them are actually run privately.

These days, if you do come across a state-funded sober living home, it may not even be called a halfway house anymore. The term gets a bad rep and has been used less and less recently.

Still, it is important to understand that some sober living homes do receive government funding, and this makes a difference in how they are run. State-funded halfway houses must adhere to strict guidelines in order to qualify for funding. Some common rules that apply to government-funded sober living homes include:

  • Must provide options for treatment onsite.
  • Must have house managers and treatment providers living onsite.
  • Limits on how long residents can stay at the house.

Who Can Live at a Halfway House?

State-funded or not, sober living communities, such as halfway houses, provide a place for addicts in recovery to live without temptations. Each addict has a different experience with recovery. Some will live in a halfway house briefly after rehab, while others may live in sober homes for their entire lives.

It all comes down to how much support you need to stay clean and avoid relapse. Although sober living homes provide less structure than inpatient rehab, they still provide recovering addicts with a community of people that share a common goal—staying sober. This communal support can be a vital aspect of a successful recovery.

Therefore, halfway houses can be a good option for addicts at just about any stage of recovery. Commonly, people live at halfway houses after leaving residential rehab and before going back to living on their own.

What to Expect at a Halfway House

So, what exactly happens at a halfway house, and how are these living situations different from others?

In essence, halfway houses and other sober living homes aim to help recovering addicts by providing a place to live that is structured and supportive of recovery.

While state-funded houses will enforce strict rules and guidelines, other homes make their own rules. There are some third-party agencies that hold sober living homes to a certain standard, which helps to weed out the good ones from the bad.

Sober living homes achieve a healthy and uplifting environment partly through rules and guidelines. Some common house rules in halfway houses include:

  • You must stay sober. This is the principle rule of all sober living homes. Many homes enforce this rule by doing frequent drug tests.
  • Chores and house tasks. Many homes keep residents engaged and involved by requiring them to do chores and tasks around the house.
  • Curfew. It is common for sober living homes to have a curfew. This is in place to keep residents out of trouble and keep them focused on their recovery.
  • Must be receiving treatment. Some halfway houses require that their residents are in outpatient care for the duration of their stay.
  • Have a job or be looking for one. House rules may state that you need to hold a steady job, or be actively looking for one in order to live there.
  • Attend house meetings. Sober living homes use house meetings as a time to check in with residents and build community.

How Much Does a Halfway House Cost?

Sober living varies in cost depending on several factors. Generally, the more people live in the house, the lower the costs. But remember that different homes offer residents different amenities and levels of support, which come at a cost.

For example, if you choose a halfway house that has onsite treatment options and includes cleaning services, that is going to cost more than a house maintained by residents.

There are options when it comes to covering the cost of sober living. Many homes encourage and even require residents to have jobs, so income can certainly help. But if you don’t have a job or still need more help with costs, your options include:

  • Insurance (may pay for some or all sober living expenses)
  • Grants and scholarships
  • Personal savings
  • Borrowing from family and/or friends
  • Setting up a payment plan with the facility
  • Credit cards and bank loans

Although halfway houses can be expensive, you shouldn’t let cost get in the way of the support you need in recovery. Do your best to choose a recovery house that fits your budget, but remember that the cost of relapse is far greater than the cost of sober living.


  1. What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go from Here? (2011, March 15)
  2. A Clean and Sober Place to Live (2008, June)
  3. Sober Living Houses for Alcohol and Drug Dependence: 18-Month Outcomes (2010, March 29)

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