The Sober Living Industry: A Patchwork Quilt
Anyone who has worked or lived in a "good" sober living home knows that it works.
Studies indicate that residents of high-quality sober living homes have a greater chance of maintaining long-term sobriety than those who don't opt for such facilities. "Good" sober living homes help people achieve recovery more cheaply and more consistently than treatment or detox alone. In fact, costs can be reduced when integrating sober living homes into the recovery journey compared to relying solely on continuous clinical treatments. So why is it that sober living homes can't bill insurance, are historically underfunded, and hard to find?
"Good" sober living homes help people achieve recovery more cheaply and more consistently than treatment or detox alone. So why is it that sober living homes can't bill insurance, are historically underfunded, and hard to find?
But, there's that one key word: "good." Figuring out which sober living operations are "good" and which are "bad" is the hard part.
Organizations like NARR have emerged that employ accreditation officers to monitor the quality of the homes they certify. This helps filter out the good and the bad operations.
However, even within accredited operators there remains a vast amount of variability in structure and quality.
At Sobriety Hub, we interact with various operators. Some are nonprofits, some are foundations, some are for-profits. There's everything from Oxford houses, which have over 2,000 locations in the U.S. as of the early 2020s, to luxury facilities. Though these facilities differ in structure, they all come under the umbrella of "sober living homes."
In addition to the variability in cost and structure, there's a wide variety of motivations as to why people start sober living home operations.
We meet operators who are people in recovery with a drive for service work, who want to leverage their ability to help others achieve recovery by starting a housing program. These operators often struggle with the business and operations side, but have a keen sense of what really helps people.
On the other hand, we come across savvy businesspeople see sober living homes as a "real estate play," where they can generate cash flow from properties and charge a markup on what would be typical rent in the area as long as they offer handful of additional services, like drug testing and intermittent supervision.
The Sober Living industry, with its mix of motivations and structures, has the characteristics of a patchwork quilt, consisting of diverse pieces that come together to form the bigger picture.