Recovery Homes

What are Recovery Homes?

“Recovery houses are safe, healthy, family-like substance-free living environments that support individuals in recovery from addiction. While recovery residences vary widely in structure, all are centered on peer support and a connection to services that promote long-term recovery. Recovery housing benefits individuals in recovery by reinforcing a substance-free lifestyle and providing direct connections to other peers in recovery, mutual support groups and recovery support services,” SAMHSA,

According to the Recovery Research Institute at Harvard Medical School, “Recovery residences for homeless people with substance use disorders is an emerging solution to a cyclical problem. Homeless individuals may have difficulty obtaining secure housing and in turn, lack of housing acts as a barrier to sobriety. Recovery residences offer an opportunity to break the cycle and address both issues concurrently.”

Recovery Homes Are Effective

Dozens of studies have detailed the effectiveness of recovery homes. A NIAAA study comparing two groups of individuals leaving residential treatment and returning to their prior living circumstances (business as usual), or entering recovery homes, showed significantly better outcomes in for those living in recovery homes at 2-year follow-up. Moreover, recovery home residents were earning $550 more per month compared to their counterparts.

A 2017 study also reveals significant improvements in psychiatric symptoms, most especially for addicts and alcoholics with both mild and moderate psychiatric illness. Another study showed residents with psychiatric comorbidity benefited from the mutual support that is a key element of recovery homes.

Recovery Homes Produce Significant Cost Savings

In addition to the evidence establishing positive recovery outcomes for recovery home residents, studies calculating the economic costs and benefits of establishing recovery homes have overwhelmingly found that the benefits far outweigh the costs. For example, researchers have documented a cost savings of $29,000 per person, when comparing residency in a recovery home to returning to a community without recovery supports. This factors in the cost of addiction, illegal activity, and incarceration which might occur.

Recovery Homes & Housing First Single Room Occupancy Apartments

A 2017 study by America’s foremost Recovery homes researcher, Dr. Douglas Polcin, reveals the benefits of both Recovery Homes and Housing First (SROs). Moreover, “Housing Choice” has been pioneered by Central City Concern, recognizing that individuals need to be able to choose between Housing First SROs focused on harm reduction, and abstinence-based housing that provides resident peer support and connection with professional SUD services and the larger recovery community. The housing stock used for Recovery Homes is typically ordinary housing that fits in with single-family neighborhoods, multi-family neighborhoods, and mixed-use residential-commercial areas.

Housing First (SROs) evolved during the 1990’s as a reaction to the large numbers of persons who remained chronically homeless even if they received professional substance abuse and mental health services. Housing First are typically SROs (single occupancy rooms) in apartment buildings. Rather than promoting an abstinence-oriented recovery from substance abuse, Housing First uses a harm reduction approach which focuses on reducing harm caused by the individual’s substance use and mental health problems. Foremost in the Housing First approach is immediate access to free or at least subsidized housing.

The Housing First and Recovery Home approaches present different areas of strength and weakness that could potentially complement one another. While Housing First can accommodate a wide variety of individuals because it adapts to their needs and desires, it sacrifices the power of the social environment and the influence of peer support that can enhance the functioning of residents.

The conclusions of the 2017 research analysis of Housing First and Recovery Homes reports that “Housing First (SROs) and Recovery Homes should be developed to run robustly in parallel ways. Funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should support a range of housing options for homeless persons with substance abuse problems, including Recovery Homes and Housing First (SROs).”

HUD Endorses Parallel Funding of Both Housing First and Recovery Homes

The HUD “Recovery Housing Policy Brief” states, “Because of that strong evidence, HUD is encouraging communities to continue to expand the supply of housing models, including permanent supportive housing, that embrace Housing First and that use harm reduction practices, and HUD continues to place a policy priority on such practices within its CoC Program Competition. Notwithstanding its emphasis on a Housing First approach, HUD also recognizes the importance of providing individual choice to support various paths towards recovery. Some people pursuing recovery from addiction express a preference for an abstinence-focused residential or housing program where they can live among and be supported by a community of peers who are also focused on pursuing recovery from addiction–environments that are provided by Recovery Housing programs. However, supporting individual choice must also mean that a community is ensuring that housing options are available for people at all stages of recovery.”