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A halfway house is a residential facility that provides people with support while they learn to integrate with society. Stays in halfway houses are made available to people leaving institutions such as prisons and mental hospitals. They can also be used for drug treatment programs, intervention programs for runaways, preparing people with disabilities to enter the community after rehabilitation, and housing of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The halfway house provides people with a structured environment that bridges the gap between an institution and the outside world.
Halfway houses may be private homes that have been converted, or facilities specifically built to provide residential support services. Residents have rooms, which are sometimes shared with other residents, along with bathroom and kitchen facilities. The house usually has a large living and recreational area that is used for socializing, as well as group counseling sessions. Sometimes the surrounding community resists the establishment of a halfway house because of fears about property values or crime, although a well run facility should not pose a threat to the community.
The schedule at a halfway house can vary. Some facilities have very rigorously structured days, with the residents attending meetings, receiving therapy, and being given access to vocational counseling and training. Others have a more unstructured environment in which free time is encouraged so that residents have an opportunity to start creating their own schedules and exploring the surrounding community.
Halfway houses are staffed with counselors and other support staff who help the residents. Some of the staff members may live in the facility to provide continuous support, while others may travel to the halfway house to be available during the day. The halfway house can also provide different levels of support for members. Residents may “graduate” from more secured, structured areas of the facility to areas that facilitate independence. Eventually, residents will be deemed ready to enter society, and they can be released from the halfway house.
People may voluntarily enter a halfway house because they do not feel ready for the outside world. In other cases, a stay may be required as part of the terms of probation or a treatment program. People tend to receive the most benefits when they are living in a halfway house voluntarily and are willing to participate in programs intended to help the residents. People who are not yet ready for this approach to treatment may experience recidivism, which is a relapse or return to unhealthy or addictive habits. A psychologist or psychiatrist may be required to conduct an evaluation before a resident can enter such a facility, in order to confirm that the person is ready and will not be a danger to other people in the halfway house.
Halfway houses are a good solution, but unfortunately, there are not enough programs for people who need the extra support they offer.
For example, someone who has been in prison for several years, and was young when they were incarcerated, may not really know much about supporting himself on the outside. The person may not possess many life skills, like paying bills on time, or making out a budget. He or she may not really know how to do laundry or cook a nutritious meal, let alone shop for the ingredients. These may all be skills a person learns at a halfway house.