A halfway house is a place that allows people with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities to learn the social and other skills necessary to integrate or re-integrate into society.
The environment features varying degrees of privacy, social work, medical, psychiatric, and other similar services as well as residence halls for the patients. Two main types are found in the U.S.
In the first type, upon admission, a patient is classified as to the type of disability, ability to re-integrate into society, and expected time frame for doing so. They may be placed into an open bay same-sex dormitory similar to that found in military basic training with fifty or a hundred similar residents in a gymnasium-type setting all going through the same thing at the same time. As the patient is able to increase his skill level and decrease his dependency on support services, the dorm members become fewer to the point where, at the final stage before being able to get their own apartment, the patient may have only one or two roommates.
The other type is reversed, housing new patients in individual rooms providing one-to-one services and programming, and as they become more independent, the dorms become bigger so that by the time the patient leaves, they are living in the 50-to-100 man dorm described above.
The same two models are used for convicted criminals to begin the process of reintegration with society, while still providing monitoring and support; this is generally believed to reduce the risk of recidivism or relapse when compared to a release directly into society. Halfway houses are meant for reintegration of persons who have been recently released from jail or a mental institution. There is often opposition from neighborhoods where halfway houses attempt to locate.
There are several different types of halfway houses. Some are state sponsored, while others (mainly addiction recovery homes and mental illness homes) are run by "for profit" entities. In criminology the purpose of a halfway house is generally considered to be that of allowing people to begin the process of reintegration with society, while still providing monitoring and support. This type of living arrangement is often believed to reduce the risk of recidivism or relapse when compared to a straight release directly into society.
Some halfway houses are meant solely for reintegration of persons who have been recently released from prison or jail, others are meant for people with chronic mental health disorders, and others are for people with substance abuse issues. The state-placement of ex-criminal offenders to a "halfway house" after a prison sentence may either be decided upon as part of the judge's sentence or by a prison official's recommendation. A direct sentence to a halfway house can be decided upon by a judge or prosecutor in lieu of prison time.
Most programs in the United States make a distinction between a halfway house and a sober/recovery house. A halfway house has an active rehabilitation treatment program run throughout the day, where the residents receive intensive individual and group counseling for their substance abuse while they establish a sober support network, secure new employment, and find new housing. Residents stay for one to six months.
Residents of work release housing are frequently required to pay rent on a "sliding scale" which is often dependent on whether or not they can find a job while in residence. In addiction recovery homes, a resident's stay is sometimes financed by health insurance. In addition, a stay in a recovery home may be a partial requirement of a criminal sentence. Whereas at places labeled as recovery houses or sober houses for those with substance abuse problems, residents are only asked to remain sober and comply with a minimal recovery program.
In certain areas, a halfway house is much different from a recovery house or sober house. In these areas, a Drug and Alcohol Halfway House is licensed by the Department of Health and has staff coverage 24 hours a day. This staff includes a clinical treatment team.
In the United Kingdom, halfway house usually refers to a place where people with mental disorders, victims of child abuse, orphans, or teenage runaways can stay. The latter are often run by charities, including the Church of England, other churches, and community groups. Residential places for offenders on bail are known as bail hostels, and probation supervised accommodation for offenders post-release are known as Approved Premises. However, the expression halfway house more usually refers to something combining features of two other things, for example a solution to a problem based on two ideas.
With regard to programming integrity, findings regarding the ability of transitional housing to reduce recidivism or help addiction recovery have been mixed. Many criminologists have done research of halfway house facilities that provide housing for low risk criminals after institutionalization. Risk screening for residents is considered essential in order to preserve both institutional and community safety (see: Lowenkamp, Latessa and Holsinger 2006).
N.I.M.B.Y. issues and siting
Social justice literature observes the relationships between halfway house siting and the NIMBY phenomena. NIMBY is an acronym for: "Not In My Back Yard". Some communities/neighborhoods may have the ability to affect political legislation through political solidarity while others may not.
Some research stresses that community residents simply feel nervous when halfway houses are sited near them (Piat 2000). Others point out that the presence of transitional residences may pose real hazards to community safety (Krause 1991).
In NIMBY research, it has been suggested that a neighborhood's resistance to placement might be linked to class-based prejudices about ex-offenders and drug addicts. Kraft and Clary (1991) argue that NIMBY responses are sometimes associated with a distrust for government sponsors.
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