The primary focus of a sober living home is to provide social support for people who have gone through recovery. These people may need help staying sober while they find or maintain meaningful employment, continue their education, and rebuild relationships. Residing at a sober living home is voluntary, although the homes have specifics rules that must be followed to maintain the sobriety and safety of the home for all residents.
Sober living homes are a relatively new idea, first developed in California, although the concept is spreading to other states. Currently, the federal government does not have specific health requirements for sober living facilities, nor do many states have regulations or required licenses. If a sober living home offers some type of regulated medical treatment, such as drug testing or therapy, then that aspect of the offerings must have the appropriate state licenses.
Because sober living homes are becoming more popular, there are some regulatory bodies developing membership and accreditation of these facilities. This ensures that the sober living home meets a certain code of ethics, as well as health standards.
Accreditation and Licensure for Sober Living Homes
According to a report on sober living homes at the Connecticut General Assembly in 2009, Hawaii was the only state with a law that governed sober living homes. The California Department of Health Care Services also oversees some regulation of sober living homes in the state, as long as they offer some services like job training, drug testing, or therapy. However, nonprofit associations are beginning to offer rigorous accreditation and oversight for members. While membership is voluntary, such accreditation shows that the sober living home managers and owners care about the health and wellbeing of their residents.
For example, the Sober Living Network focuses on promoting and maintaining high-quality management and operation of sober living homes, as well as other community recovery support services. This network provides information for residents or potential residents on their housing rights, and offers management training to people who wish to start a sober living home. SLN has been in operation since 1995, serving those in recovery and those who operate sober living homes in Southern California.
The Minnesota Association of Sober Homes was founded in 2007 and offers a set of standards, regular inspections, and a code of ethics for members of the association. Standards include everything from providing smoke detectors and a pest-free environment, to management training and residential council governance guidelines.
The Florida Alliance for Recovery Residences oversees sober living homes and other addiction recovery services with residents. To receive certification from FARR, a sober living home must pass regular inspections that ensure residents are maintaining their sobriety, the home is clean, and the residence blends into the surrounding community. The owner, manager, and all of the staff must also complete specific training to support the residents.
At the national level, the National Association of Recovery Residences oversees 25 regional affiliates, including FARR. This nonprofit organization helps set standards for safe and clean environments, staff and medical support, onsite education and job training, and more. The organization was founded in 2011.
What to Look for in a Sober Living Home
Because sober living homes are a relatively new idea, there are some owners and operators, according to news reports, who open these homes strictly to make money. This means they take advantage of people who are struggling to overcome their addictions, and that can lead people to relapse.
Here are some things to look out for when looking for a sober living home:
- Structure: Are there rules in place? Do the staff have specific ways to enforce these rules?
- Safety: What happens if a resident breaks the rules? Is there a residents’ council to address resident grievances and build a stronger community?
- Social support: Are there regular social activities? Does the home offer therapy? Are the group therapists licensed, and if so, through which organizations or state boards?
Accreditation for sober living homes is still a very new idea, but it is catching on quickly. Look for sober living homes that have state-licensed programs like therapy and drug testing, and also ask about compliance with national or state accreditation standards. Look around and make sure the home has detailed rules to maintain residency, and most importantly, check out the social support offered at the home.
The point of sober living homes is to get social support during recovery. Although there are many safety considerations when running any kind of group housing, a sober living home should offer a sober environment, social interaction, and support for ongoing recovery.