A halfway house is a residential treatment facility for individuals who have completed inpatient, correctional, or hospital-based, psychiatric treatment but who are not prepared to make a full transition to independent living.
Halfway houses typically are staffed by therapists, counselors, social workers, other behavioral health professionals, and lay people with a specialized background in the treatment area. Time spent both in and away from the halfway house is highly structured. Residents are allowed to leave the facility for work and school but are assigned housekeeping or other tasks during their residential time. Attendance at onsite group therapy and support group meetings usually is required.
The average length of stay in a halfway house ranges from three months to a year or more. Both co-ed and gender-specific halfway residences exist in the United States. Many halfway houses are converted apartment buildings or large private residences, often located in residential areas.
A period of residence in a halfway house often is recommended when a controlled social environment is critical for clients’ continued recovery. A halfway house can be the best placement for individuals leaving inpatient alcohol and/or drug rehabilitation facilities or correctional facilities or for those with chronic mental illness such as schizophrenia, with lifelong developmental disabilities when transitioning from family or institutional settings to the community, and when job training and development of life skills are essential.
Safe houses, another type of halfway-type house, were created for two client populations, neither institutionalized nor incarcerated: runaway youth or individuals who are seeking to escape situations of domestic violence, typically battered and abused women. Such residential facilities typically provide access to behavioral health counseling, educational services, job skills training and employment acquisition, and support groups for their residents. These houses help adolescents, women, and their children prepare for the future without outside stressors such as homelessness or daily threat of abuse and can enable clients to relocate, return to school, or to secure employment. Counselors in the house organize job training and other skills building activities to prepare the residents for financial independence.
Finally, halfway houses are used as a transitional residence for low-risk prisoners nearing release in order to keep prison populations down, facilitate the transition from prison life to society, and to decrease recidivism.
Halfway houses were created in late nineteenth-century England to house, rehabilitate, and care for children who had been arrested for minor crimes such as theft. In 1896, Maud Ballington Booth (1865–1948), the cofounder of Volunteers of America and an advocate for prison reform, opened the first privately owned halfway house in the United States, Hope Hall Number 1 in New York City. Her project met with great success, and Hope Hall Number 2 in Chicago soon followed. The halls were designed to reintroduce released convicts to the community, facilitate secure employment, and nurse clients back to health after sentences spent in the disease-ridden prisons of the time. By 1902, more than 3,000 former prisoners had passed through the doors of Hope Hall 1 and 2. Over time, as states began to adopt probation and parole regulations and programs, the facilities declined in popularity, but they experienced renewed interest and activity after World War II. In the mid-2010s, Volunteers of America continued to operate Hope Halls in conjunction with state correctional facilities.
People who are at high risk for harming themselves or others or who have a history of avoiding treatment are not appropriate candidates for halfway house residency. Halfway houses usually require residents to be self-sufficient in terms of hygiene and other basic self-care skills and activities of daily living and to be free of any physical impairment so severe and chronic that it requires high levels of ongoing medical care. Other requirements may exist for admittance into specific halfway house programs.
See also Addiction/addictive personality ; Residential treatment ; Resilience .
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