Halfway House vs. Sober House: What’s The Difference?

Transitional living places, such as a halfway house or a sober living home, are given many different titles these days, creating confusion for those who seek help. The names are used interchangeably, making it hard for those in need to know which facility is right.

In this article, we’re taking a look at the key differences.

Halfway House vs. Sober House: What's The Difference? | Transitions SL

Halfway House vs. Sober House: What’s The Difference?

Some of the names used include residential re-entry programs, sober houses, dry houses, recovery residences, community-based residential housing, transitional houses, re-entry homes, and any combination of these names. The two most commonly used titles are halfway house and sober house.

It’s important to distinguish between the two to prevent those in need from delayed service. Let’s start with who can benefit from each type of facility.

The Client

Primarily, the clients who benefit from halfway houses have spent previous time in jail or prison. They have been found guilty of a crime, have been incarcerated, and before they re-enter society as a law-abiding citizen, they are allowed to complete their sentence in a halfway house.

Sober living homes serve men and women who struggle with addiction and have recently been discharged successfully from an inpatient rehabilitation program. Before returning home, where they will face numerous triggers, sober homes give a person in recovery time to practice their relapse prevention skills.

The Owners

Owners of a halfway house can vary. Some are created by non-profit agencies, while others are for-profit, like a mental health facility or a governmental agency.

An addiction rehabilitation facility typically owns sober homes. They operate as a branch under a broad umbrella of treatment services.


Halfway homes are established to meet the necessary mental and physical needs of offenders moving from incarceration back into society. The main goal is to help offenders learn new skills so they can become law-abiding citizens. They make the community safer, as well as maintain success with employment and relationships.

The purpose of a sober home is to offer recovery support in between inpatient rehab and returning home. A person in recovery is given a safe place to adjust from an extremely structured environment to a less structured environment, where they can continue to receive recovery support while practicing skills they learned while in treatment.

The Services

Halfway homes offer a great variety of services to help its clients prepare for re-entry into society. However, all halfway houses are not the same regarding access to resources. Some may have a greater focus on addiction recovery, while others may be geared towards mental health treatment.

However, the majority of halfway houses help a resident find and meet their needs, including educational, employment, mental health, drug and alcohol, and life skill training.

Life skill training may include anger management, relapse prevention, communication skills, financial planning, computer skills, and job search skills.

Sober homes have a central focus on helping someone in addiction recovery, stay in recovery. Sober homes also help residents access resources for areas in which they are struggling, and that could be a potential cause of relapse.

Continued counseling, support groups, peer counseling, job searches, and practice implementing relapse prevention tools are part of a sober home system.

Who Is In Charge?

In a halfway house, residents are under constant supervision and must interact with staff throughout the day and night. The team of a halfway house set rules that residents must abide by. Examples of regulations include curfews, drug testing, and attending appointments like counseling. If rules are broken, consequences will be enforced.

Sober homes are much more flexible, with a good combination of structure and freedom. Residents are allowed to come and go as they please throughout the day. They can get a job, attend counseling, attend support groups, and more. Rules, like curfew and attending group meetings, are also set in place to help the residents practice responsibility and accountability. Many sober homes are run by the residents or by peers with great success in recovery.


Because halfway houses are considered community-based correctional facilities, sanctions can be enforced, according to the National Institute of Justice. In some cases, offenders who break the rules can be returned to jail or prison.

Consequences are necessary for any program where people are struggling to better themselves. Sober living consequences may include asking a resident to leave if they have relapsed and jeopardizing others’ sobriety. They may also return them to inpatient treatment if the resident is willing.

Another reason for consequences includes not paying the minimal fees that help pay for your stay.


Both halfway houses and sober homes must charge a fee, which tends to be comparable or less than “real world” costs. Fees are used to pay utility costs, mortgage, staff, and any other provisions.

According to a federal report, halfway house residents are required to pay up to 25% of their gross income and any other costs they incur, like healthcare.

Fees vary by halfway house, however. Some charge a flat rent that matches the cost of area apartments.

Sober homes also charge rent based on the housing market in which the facility is located.

Length of Stay

The time you spend in a halfway house or a sober home can be different for each resident and their circumstances.

Halfway home residents are technically still incarcerated and will be released when they are paroled or max out their sentence. According to reports, there is no limit to how long a prisoner can stay in a halfway house.

Sober house residents choose their length of stay. One year is the recommended length of stay because research has shown the more time you are away from your triggers and living in recovery, the better your chance of remaining sober.


If you are seeking further information on either type of program, reach out online or by phone today.

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