Researchers Reveal Array of Problems for Halfway Houses in Florida

Researchers have observed a variety of issues with halfway houses in Florida including lack of supervision and poor regulation.

A halfway house, also referred to as a sober living house, is a transitional living facility. Halfway houses accommodate for recovering addicts, prisoners, and individuals battling homelessness. These facilities serve as a “halfway” point to reintegrate former inmates and recovering addicts back into society. Halfway houses provide food, shelter, enforce house rules, aid residents in maintaining employment, and offer substance abuse treatment.

Despite the apparent benefits of halfway houses, there have been a series of issues with these facilities. In 2012, Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin conducted an investigation to report on the condition of halfway houses in the Tampa Bay area. Within this investigation, Martin found that many halfway houses did not “provide the promised counseling and 12-step programs.” Martin also came across other serious issues such as homes that tolerated violence and drug use.

Lack of proper supervision has also shown to be an ongoing problem in Florida halfway houses. According to Prison Legal News, a magazine that reports on prisoner’s rights and criminal justice related issues, reported that “state officials do not require reentry facilities to be licensed,” making it difficult to ensure that halfway houses in the state are being properly operated by professionals. As a result, “individuals with serious criminal records, including robbery, sexual assault and drug trafficking,” have operated halfway houses in Florida.

“To qualify for federal funding, halfway house owners and staff have to undergo criminal background checks and the houses must meet certain codes. The majority of reentry facilities in Florida receive no federal funds, though, and are thus poorly regulated,” said Prison Legal News journalist Derek Gilna.

Dr. Gail Horton, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Florida and associate professor at Florida Atlantic University, has been treating drug and alcohol addiction for 25 years. Although Horton acknowledged there are many professionals that properly regulate halfway houses, she has also observed a lack of proper management in south Florida.

Dr. Gail Horton Discusses Halfway House Problems in Florida from Janeen Johnally on Vimeo.

Dr. Gail Horton (LCSW) discusses the issues with halfway houses in Florida.

“That is one of the things that I would like to see as part of regulation is that if you own a business, you need to have some credentials that you actually know something about addiction,” said Horton.

Improving regulation can make a major impact on the quality of halfway houses in Florida. Increased regulation and supervision would not only improve the living conditions of these facilities, but also provide residents a better chance of maintaining sobriety and thriving on their own.