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  • Kelly Rhone

7 ESSENTIAL PIECES OF INFORMATION ON HOW TO ESTABLISH A SOBER LIVING HOME IN CALIFORNIA

Updated: May 12




The success of sober homes, like that of other enterprises, is dependent on careful planning.


If you invest in a property for two dozen people and only get five, your bottom line will suffer. So instead, ask and answer the following crucial questions:


· What is your target market? Some houses are inexpensive and sparse, while others are more like holiday spas with monthly rents of $10,000.


· Do you want management and personnel on-site?


· How many beds will be profitable, and how much will each resident cost?


· Are you able to secure California grants, or are you entirely self-funded?


· How much coverage will you require?


· What restrictions would you set on residents?


· Does zoning permit multi-family housing?


· How will you locate your potential residents?


According to one Sacramento County survey, over half of sober-home participants chose the facility themselves or received a referral from family or friends.


Some firms would gladly assist you to figure out some of this if you can afford a consultation fee.


We will go through these questions one by one for your assistance and further understanding while starting a sober living home.


Let's start with the location.



1. Choosing a location and a site


Considerations such as location preferences should be considered.


Researching to learn about and limit alternatives is a liberating step.


Visiting the location to establish a sober living home in person is also a wise step to consider while planning to develop one.


Having an idea of the neighborhood you want to build with might also assist you in making a selection.


Individuals may travel for sober living houses in the same way that they can for treatment, with comparable perks such as:

· Reducing factors that trigger addiction.

· A whole new setting.

· Variety is available.




2. Residential Zoning regulations


Local control of sober living homes and residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation facilities is currently limited by legislation.


These uses have become profitable enterprises in many cases, and their operation in single-family communities may be challenging.

This section discusses the existing legal limits and city concerns for these homes and amenities.


  • Residential rehabilitation programs are subject to the same municipal rules as single-family residences.


Cities have the authority to control land uses to preserve residential districts' character. This jurisdiction is not uncontrolled. Local regulation may be pre­empted by state and federal legislation.


Specific residential treatment centers are excluded from local zoning rules under state licensing legislation.


Alcohol and drug programs (ADPs) provide nonmedical residential care 24 hours, seven days a week.


Adults recovering from alcohol and drug addiction must get a state license.


State law forbids towns from regulating licensed ADP facilities that serve six or fewer patients differently from single-family residences.


  • Certified residential treatment programs are subject to fewer prohibitions under state law than other licensed group homes.


Different limits apply to state­ licensed group homes.


In addition, the Community Care Facilities Act, which exempts alcohol and drug rehabs, sets several requirements designed to preserve the integrity of residential districts.


For example, under the legislation, approved foster homes cannot be for-profit enterprises.


On the other hand, ADPs may operate as for-profit operations in residential zones without business licenses since licenses are generally not necessary for other single-family uses.


The county may seek rejection of the license on the grounds of overconcentration of residential care facilities.


The state does not notify cities before issuing a new ADP license.


The Act calls for a balanced strategy "to avoid overconcentration of residential care facilities that undermine the integrity of residential areas.


Under the Community Care Facilities Act, the state must refuse a new group home license if approval is over concentrated.


The state's policy for alcohol and drug rehab programs, on the other hand, states that each county and city shall permit and encourage the development of sufficient numbers and types of alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities as are commensurate with local need.


The attorney general has stated that the state may not deny an application for licensure or suspend or revoke the license of a treatment facility because the particular community already has more than a treatment facility.


With that judgment, the attorney general concluded that the Legislature's reference to local need in issuing ADP treatment center licenses did not provide a basis for limiting their numbers in any community.


  • Sober living houses do not need a license and do not have a restriction of six or fewer occupants.


Adult recovering alcoholics and drug addicts may live in a sober living home in a substance-free, mutually supportive setting.


There are no services offered. However, residents may participate in self-help activities independently or with others.


There is no need for a license if no therapy is offered to citizens. The state legislation specifies a maximum of six patients.


Sober living houses are not restricted to six occupants per single-family dwelling since the licensing legislation does not apply.


Furthermore, since the Act does not apply, towns are not barred from regulating these uses under state law.


  • Anti­discrimination legislation and reasonable accommodation standards prohibit categorical regulation of sober living houses.


People with disabilities are protected from housing discrimination under federal and state fair housing legislation.


For anti­discrimination legislation, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are incapacitated.


The federal Americans with Disabilities Act protects recovering alcoholics and drug users (ADA).


Residents in sober living homes, on the other hand, may request a waiver from enforcement as a reasonable accommodation to their impairment that may benefit from a drug.


The 1988 Fair Housing Act Amendments prohibit local governments from discriminating against the disabled, for example, by establishing a bedroom/per occupant rule, imposing distance requirements between facilities, or prohibiting commercial operators from operating sober living facilities in residential neighborhoods.


To get conditional use permission, business license, or home occupancy permit would impose conditions on disabled people's dwellings that would not be enforced on other households.


  • A settlement that benefits the protected class is acceptable.


The California Legislative Counsel has opined, based on cases interpreting the federal Fair Housing Act, that "sober living homes" may not be subject to distance requirements unless the regulation benefits the protected class or responds to legitimate safety concerns raised by individuals affected rather than the other way around.


The italicized provision denotes the meeting point of local and state interests.


For example, cities use zoning authority to preserve the integrity of residential communities.


The principle underpinning state law pre­emption is providing care in a residential environment.


Anti-discrimination laws are meant to preserve equal access to opportunities for housing.


The integrity of residential areas must be preserved to give a desirable environment and housing opportunities.


Many would argue that distance regulations address the most pressing needs of local government while advancing state policy.


As more communities become acquainted with the consequences of uncontrolled usage, enacting anti-discrimination legislation may soon require what it seems to ban.


  • Anti-discrimination legislation and reasonable accommodation standards prohibit outright control of sober living environments.


Dwelling quarters People with disabilities are protected from housing discrimination under federal and state fair housing legislation.


For anti­discrimination legislation, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are incapacitated.


The federal Americans with Disabilities Act protects recovering alcoholics and drug users (ADA).


Residents in sober living homes, on the other hand, may request a waiver from enforcement as a reasonable accommodation to their impairment that may benefit from a drug.


The 1988 Fair Housing Act Amendments prohibit local governments from discriminating against the disabled, for example, by establishing a bedroom/per occupant rule, imposing distance requirements between facilities, or prohibiting commercial operators from operating sober living facilities in residential neighborhoods.


To get conditional use permission, business license, or home occupancy permit would impose conditions on "handicapped" people's dwellings that would not be enforced on other households.

  • Even a law that applies equally to group homes for disabled and non­disabled people might be discriminatory and unconstitutional.


A charge of discrimination against a city based on a zoning code may call the ordinance's constitutionality into question.


As applied in a particular situation, in any case, the accusations will be classified as one of three types of unlawful discrimination:


a. Discriminatory treatment happens when a protected class of people (recovering alcoholics or drug addicts) is treated differently under the law.


Discriminatory treatment is banned unless the differing treatment benefits the protected class or responds to genuine safety concerns.


A rule that seems to be neutral (that does not treat a protected class of people differently) may yet be unconstitutional if evidence shows that the statute's objective is discriminatory.


Legitimate, nondiscriminatory, no perpetual grounds must be used to justify regulations.


b. The disparate effect arises when a rule has a markedly different and harmful impact on a protected class.


c. Discrimination occurs when rules, procedures, policies, and services are not reasonably accommodated for protected class members.


A reasonable accommodation does not need a fundamental change in zoning standards or imposes an unreasonable financial or administrative hardship.


A recent case shows that municipal policies challenged as discriminatory should be held to higher standards.


The City of Newport Beach passed a neutral ordinance. It applies to communal living settings instead of single housekeeping units yet does not discriminate against recovering alcoholics or drug users.


However, plaintiffs assert that the ordinance's goal is to control sober living houses; notably, they sued Newport Beach for discrimination.


The Ninth Circuit ordered a trial to establish whether Newport Beach implemented the legislation intending to discriminate against particular groups.


Evidence that it was the city's intention and the ordinance's practical impact of barring new group homes from operating in most residential zones led to a petition to the U.S.




3. Drug treatment options should be available


Treatment regimens are unique to each person and may be tailored to their specific requirements and circumstances.


Individuals in recovery are actively engaged in every phase of the recovery process in the most successful forms of treatment programs.


Because the residents are there to be treated, the following programs should at the very least be offered to them.


· Inpatient Rehabilitation


Inpatient rehab facilities provide organized treatment programs that address all aspects of an individual's addiction.


Patients in inpatient treatment live in a substance-free environment and get 24-hour medical care and therapeutic assistance.


Individuals facing chronic addiction and those suffering from a co-occurring mental or behavioral condition should consider inpatient treatment.


· Outpatient Rehabilitation


Outpatient rehabilitation is another kind of comprehensive addiction treatment.


Many of the same effective treatments and therapies are available in these inpatient rehab programs.


On the other hand, outpatient rehabs enable patients to rehabilitate at home.


As a result, patients may continue working and caring for their families while attending therapy sessions planned throughout the week.


It's vital to remember that outpatient rehabs do not isolate patients from the outside world; as a result, patients are more likely to face triggers that threaten their recovery.


As a result, outpatient rehabs are best suited for those with minor addiction types and a caring, disciplined attitude to recovery.


Outpatient programs, often integrated with sober living homes, are also an appropriate step-down program following inpatient treatment.


· Detoxification


Detoxification assists individuals in safely withdrawing from drugs or alcohol until the substances are no longer present in their system.


It is often the initial step in treating those suffering from moderate to severe addiction.


Detoxing from some narcotics may need medication-assisted treatment in certain situations to alleviate the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.


During detox, medications are often tapered down until the patient is no longer physiologically reliant on addictive drugs.


· Medication for addiction


Patients may be administered drugs to aid in their recovery throughout detox and therapy.


These drugs are used for several objectives, including managing withdrawal symptoms, reducing cravings, and treating co-occurring illnesses.


When used in combination with a thorough treatment program, medications for addiction therapy provide the best outcomes.


· Faith-Based Treatment

Some individuals want to approach their recovery more spiritually.


Religion-based rehabilitation institutions provide specific programs and facilities that are centered on faith.


People in recovery might surround themselves with like-minded folks searching for advice from a higher power to remain strong in the path ahead inside this sort of rehab program.


· Biofeedback Therapy


Biofeedback is a drug-free treatment that assists persons in recovery in understanding their body's involuntary functions.


After studying brain wave patterns, the therapist might propose various psychological approaches for overcoming addictions.


· Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to assist persons in recovery in identifying troubling thoughts or sensations that may jeopardize their sobriety or lead to a relapse.




· Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)


Dialectical behavioral treatment (DBT) treats severe mental diseases like obsessive-compulsive disorder and drug use problems.


· Experiential Therapy


Experiential therapy employs non-traditional treatment strategies to assist recovering addicts in dealing with suppressed experiences and emotions that may have led to their addiction.



4. Licensing and Agreements


A member of your family must invite anybody of the proper gender to work as a house manager so that the board can operate your sober living home smoothly and successfully.


A house manager's responsibilities include monitoring occupancy levels in single-family houses and arranging house activities and neighborhood meetings.


On occasion, a landlord may be able to live alongside their tenants in their homes.


The ideal applicant for this role will be someone who has been in therapy for an extended period and has maintained that degree of healing for at least one year.


If they reside in the campus dorms for the impoverished or those suffering difficulty owing to economic conditions, they may be eligible for free or reduced-fee room and board.


Make a policy manual, write out each rule, guideline, and process, and check compliance to ensure everyone understands how to behave while living at the sober living home.


The norms and expectations of drug-free living should be thoroughly communicated, including admission criteria, housing standards, and satisfying attendance requirements.


When you initially start your sober living home, make sure that all residents read and sign the policy handbook and retain a copy of it.


It is critical to prepare ahead of time to take actions that can ease your tax-filing procedure, such as keeping track of all company costs, income, attendance, and travel.


Accounting software applications are used by businesses to manage their accounts, and many of them enable data input from many specialists.


If you decide to take the risk of legally submitting your documents, you might consider hiring a professional accountant.


5. Household regulations


The most crucial guideline of sober life is, you guessed it, keeping straight.


If someone drinks or does drugs while living in a sober home, they break the house's most essential rule and may be asked to leave.


Admitting relapse and being upfront and honest, on the other hand, may give a resident a second opportunity.


They may be suspended and then permitted to rejoin if they are committed to being sober and clean.


Here is a list of fundamental sober living standards enforced in many houses.


Residents are required to:


· Avoid using drugs and alcohol.


· Respect a curfew.


· They must show consideration for their roommates and the home personnel.


· Provide and accept emotional assistance


· Take part in activities (like support meetings and chores)


· Pets are not allowed (depending on the home)


· No overnight visitors


· At least five evenings every week, sleep at home.


· Cover some of the costs of living in the house.


· Accept to be tested for drugs and alcohol at random.


· Attend local 12-Step meetings or peer-support groups regularly.


Cell phone rules, like pet policies, differ from house to house. However, cell phones and pets are permitted in certain dwellings, provided they are not disruptive.


Others may limit or prohibit mobile phone and internet usage since they might serve as triggers for relapse.


6. Staffing


Sober living residences are either male-exclusive or female-only, with just a few exceptions housing both genders.


By doing this, you define the parameters for who may live in your sober living home.


To assist operate the home, you should ask a person of the proper gender to be the house manager, and if you have mixed genders, you may want to have two house managers to equal out the gender ratio.


The home manager should be sober for at least six months to a year, and you should get into a contract with that individual for a certain amount of time.


It's a fantastic idea to promote a resident to house manager once they've been clean for a certain amount of time.


This provides them with the incentive to stay clean. However, you must pay for housekeeping. Their room and food are often provided for free, but this does not eliminate the requirement to pay them.


You should be able to assess whether or not a person should live in your home.


You should provide a list of the documents that an applicant must give throughout the application process, ranging from identity to proof of residence and references.


7. Combating NIMBY (not in my backyard) issues


NIMBY stands for "not-in-my-backyard," and it has become a moniker for residents who vocally oppose specific improvements in their community.


NIMBYs regularly target sober living homes because they are typically unwelcome additions to existing areas.


To understand how to deal with NIMBYs successfully, it's necessary to know why they detest sober living houses.


When NIMBYs think about sober living houses, they envision:

· Property values are falling.

· Concerns about noise

· Problems with crime

· Issues with littering

· Issues with traffic

· Parking problems

· Problems with safety

· Behavioral problems


More inhabitants equal more issues. However, most residents in certain sober living houses do not have access to automobiles.


Therefore, parking will not be a problem, as some NIMBYs worry.


Because not everyone has dealt with persons in recovery, NIMBYs are fearful.


The easiest method to deal with a NIMBY is to deal with them before becoming NIMBYs.


You may create instructional material regarding your sober living home's rules, standards, and expectations for broad community distribution.


You may also organize a community gathering to explore issues and ease anxieties. Have you already started your center? You might also think about:


Hosting a community event or open house at your sober living facility will allow neighbors to view the facility and connect positively with residents.


The Fair Housing Act of 1934 and the AFH Amendments of 1988 state that persons in recovery have an illness and are a protected class of people under the law.


In other words, under anti-discrimination rules, those in recovery are regarded to have a disability.


Whether your city is seeking to revoke your sober living home's license or using maximum occupancy restrictions to limit the number of individuals you can accommodate at your facility, there are things you may do to fight back, depending on the scenario.



Many sober living facilities have had success in these challenges with the assistance of a lawyer who specializes in anti-discrimination statutes.


However, if at all feasible, avoid costly legal entanglements.



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