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Who Should Pay for Sober Housing?

family visit @ facility

AiR member peppermintpatty wrote in with concerns about her son's aftercare:

"I have been extremely concerned about aftercare and how it is supported or followed up.

My son recently got out of Spectrum and went to a sober house. However knowing he does not have a job and has to report to sherriff's office 2 or 3 times a week, probation and go to another program (I don't see how he is going to be able to get a job within a reasonable amount of time due to all of these conditions). But yet they allowed him to go on to sober house. Yes I did pay the month for him to be there because it was a better choice than him moving back home with me or going to a shelter (he is 30). He has almost 3 months clean. PRAISE GOD! My question or thought is why wouldn't Spectrum keep him there until he was able to be self-supportive or get other support system. I am a widow and am unable to afford this monthly cost. However, I couldn't see him in a shelter being so vulnerable just leaving Spectrum where he was doing very well.

I think this is where there is a big glitch in the system but I don't know what I can do to help.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Open to suggestions."

Dear peppermintpatty:

Your comment underscores the problems that people in early recovery frequently have in trying to get their life back on track. So much damage is done in active addiction. It’s uncanny how often things fall apart even more in early sobriety. I have known so many people who get sober only to be socked by the loss of an apartment, a relationship, a job, a source of income, or debt collectors. Somehow, when they were actively using, the problems were somehow kept more at bay. It all seems to come crashing down at once, and the Loved One is vulnerable and raw, with a very small arsenal of coping skills.

In answer to your question, treatment is underfunded and limited to a narrow definition of substance abuse treatment. Treatment doesn’t see its role as helping the newly sober person to manage financially. They rarely ask the question, "So where is the job?” … “How is this person going to pay for the sober house?” … “How is this person going to get to their appointments?” They certainly don’t see their role as providing inpatient treatment until such time as the person is financially stable.

As you have learned, solutions to these questions fall back on the family.

Aftercare planning has improved greatly across the treatment system. Programs have put in place regular phone calls with discharged clients, phone counseling, follow-up groups and more. But the problems of job training and securing work, transportation and childcare remain huge concerns for those trying to get back on their feet. When hit in the face with these problems, the job of staying clean and sober can be extra daunting.

A good sober house, in my mind, is one that works with residents to find work, and doesn’t charge them for living expenses until they can pay. Families may still need to help for a month or two, but ideally that stops—in part because the sober house has helped the new resident get plugged in to work and transport.

I am thrilled to hear your son has 3 months. The system has colluded to help with this. From your comment it sounds like criminal justice is involved and the public treatment system in Massachusetts provided solid treatment.

Each step back into the community is going to be a time of more insecurity for the person in very early recovery and for the family, there is no denying it. Financial problems are the norm and many posts on this site address the role families can or should play financially and in terms of housing (see blog topics: "asking them to leave" "providing shelter" "transitioning to independent living"). 

There isn’t much else you can do. Take him for an inexpensive meal and tell him you’re proud of him. Stop by the sober house with some groceries… perhaps a ride in the country on a sunny day. Find ways to reward this huge risk he is taking in living life sober.

We need a system that defines recovery from addiction as more than the biological or the psychological. We need a system that appreciates the need for good work and financial stability, passionate pursuits, and healthy living and community.

We will be rooting for your son.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. An integral part of “treatment” is a process of re-habilitation into a manageable living environment. In Massachusetts, there is a distinction (and a significant difference) between “Sober Houses” and Residential treatment facilities. The former are privately managed houses that charge rent, and to varying degrees, offer support in establishing and maintaining a substance free environment for people to learn how to live a life free from substance use. The latter are often termed “Half-way Houses” and are often funded and licensed by DPH through the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services. These facilities offer different treatment milieu structures, are staffed by professional care-givers, and are intended to offer people opportunities to establish themselves financially by subsidizing most of the cost of their stay. Different Half-way Houses operate in different ways, but they all are required to provide case-management support for people to assist them in finding gainful employment, establishing healthy life-support services, and helping people find viable living arrangements post-discharge.
    Unfortunately, many people who enter half-way houses have poor work histories, have lost financial independence, and suffer with psychological impairments that are often at the root of their substance use problems. It is a complex set of entangled issues that must be addressed, and any system is limited in its ability to address all of them simultaneously. Family support is key… and all to often, this has been lost by the time people enter treatment.
    There IS help out there, but I must say that in my experience, it is motivation and a willingness to take good, orderly direction that is the best determiner for success for those seeking long term treatment. In the end, it does seem to come down to personal responsibility and a willingness to change habits that lead people to become homeless, jobless, and often lacking hope.