WHAT IS A HALFWAY HOUSE?
The term “Halfway House” was used to strictly refer to re-entry homes for incarcerated people. It was a home halfway in between the prison and society. They were established to help ex-felons slowly reintegrate into society. Today the term has broadened into a lot of different types of facilities. All these facilities for the most part are where people share the house because of some type of similar need. Many are coming out of treatment centers for drug and alcohol, some may be homeless, and others just can’t afford their own apartment. Halfway houses is an umbrella term for affordable shared housing today.
WHY HALFWAY HOMES ARE SO CONTROVERSIAL?
Group homes can be a controversial issue for homeowners especially if they live in very nice areas or are part of homeowner’s associations. Homeowners want reassurance that residents of halfway houses won’t congregate in the front yard smoking cigarettes. They are basically in fear of the type” of people moving in next door. Nobody wants criminals and drug addicts as their neighbors.
I remember when my mother was quoted in the Newport Beach, California Daily Pilot newspaper as saying she didn’t want a sober living moving into the house next door to ours. She was in fear that not only would it bring the value of our house down but that the “type” of people living there would create problems.
Many homeowners and homeowner associations are against having halfway houses in their neighborhoods. They fight tooth and nail to keep sober living or whatever type of group home from being in their backyard. Thus the term “NIMBY” Not in my backyard was coined by many cities and their snobby residents. Marie-Ann Sennett, executive director of the prisoners’ group, said the findings proved that halfway houses are unfairly branded as bad neighbors. People claim that sober living and halfway houses can bring the value of their homes down. Yet studies have found that property values continued to rise near halfway homes and service facilities for former felons. Washington Post. Another study by George Washington University found that crimes are more likely to happen by a grocery store shopping center than by a halfway house. There is a need for a middle ground between addiction or crime, and recovery before one fully is able to reintegrate into society. you reenter society.
OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing can not be discriminated against. Landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of the following is illegal:
- RACE OR COLOR
- NATIONAL ORIGIN
- FAMILIAL STATUS, or
Drug and Alcohol abuse is a disease and therefore a disability. The Act defines persons with a disability to mean those individuals with mental or physical impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities. Believe me, as a drug addict of meth I was disabled for quite some time and unable to participate in major life activities.
STOP THE SNOBBISH CITIES AND NEIGHBORHOODSThe Oxford Houses case ruled that recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act as handicapped individuals and local governments must make reasonable accommodations in their local zoning law restrictions. Since residents are considered ‘disabled people’ under county ordinances they are considered a protected class under the Fair Housing Act.
One of the snobbiest cities in the United States is Pasadena. A visit from the paramedics to our sober living led to a visit by the fire department. They in turn notified the zoning department and code compliance about the beds upstairs in a so-called attic. It was our mistake in trying to add beds everywhere even though it was comfortable for all the residents. Thus started a long-term fight with the City Attorney’s Office of Pasadena against Uncle Dave’s Housing. Eventually, we chose to leave Pasadena rather than spend millions to fight their unconstitutional law that “no more than 6 persons unrelated by blood may reside under 1 roof” even in a 10-bedroom house that we had! We fought the city and even held a protest at the court stating the Pasadena law preventing more than 6 people under one roof was unconstitutional. It was going to cost millions of dollars in attorneys fees to fight this unconstitutional city zoning law. It was a good learning lesson that has enabled me to become an expert on where halfway houses should be located within neighborhoods.
WE NEED AFFORDABLE HOUSING!
Every city and community must provide affordable housing for its citizens. Unfortunately, governments lack in this area so many private and non-profit organizations step up to the plate to help out their communities by building affordable housing. Where does someone go that can’t afford their rent or their own apartment? Halfway homes serve a very necessary and important need in each city and community especially in today’s world with the COVID pandemic and economic crisis. Whether someone needs a safe place to live after completing a treatment program or if someone needs help re-establishing themselves after being in prison or if they just fell on hard times halfway houses can help so many people in our communities.
Most importantly if anyone tries to regulate specific groups of people from living in their neighborhood, they are in direct violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act.
When opening a halfway house it is very important that you take into consideration the location of the house or property. You do not want to stick out like a sore thumb. Need competent management
The basic rule is If you are starting and opening a halfway house you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. You want to be able to integrate into the neighborhood. For help or more information please contact me at Felicia@soshousing.org.
Related Reading What is a Halfway House?
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