Maintaining The Physical Recovery Residence
An effective sober living recovery residence offers a safe, structured and supportive environment where residents can continue their journey to long-term recovery. Offering high-quality ongoing therapy, limited independence and a substance-free home provides reassurance to residents that they are valued and worth the effort that it takes to stay sober. Additionally, living among peers who are struggling with similar issues often creates an atmosphere of loving accountability, support and understanding.
Recovery residences provide a full range of environments that are free from alcohol and illicit drug use with a focus on peer support and connection to other recovery services and supports. All recovery residences are founded on Social Model Recovery Philosophy. Today, the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) has identified several different types, known as the 4 Levels of Support. They range in the type and intensity of services they provide, which cost effectively matches individual needs with a continuum of support.
Maintaining a temptation-free recovery residence is a critical element of successful transitional living, as is ensuring that residents are continuing with their therapeutic medications. To ensure a drug-free and safe residence, sober living homes must have a drug-testing policy in place and a licensed professional available to monitor the intake of therapeutic medication. Safeguarding the sobriety and well-being of their residents is the most important responsibility of a recovery residence.
Residences provide this supportive, communal, sober living environment for those in recovery. It is necessary to provide structure and have residents abide by rules and guidelines to maintain order and reduce conflict or confusion. It is equally important that recovery residents have the ability to work together as a team and support one another in the journey to living a responsible life guided by recovery, health, wellness and spiritual principals. Once accepted into the recovery residence, residents will be expected to honor their agreement and uphold the responsibilities outlined in residences’ policies, procedures, rules and residents rights.
Certified Recovery Residence Administrators (CRRA) must conduct regular inspections to provide a safe physical environment for residents and staff. Residence Administrator requires the use of professional knowledge and skills to determine when and how to conduct job tasks.
One of the main goals of the Recovery Residence Administrator is to ensure the physical residence keeps to FARR standards. This means the CRRA has the responsibility to implement and maintain policies related to the physical residence and its place in the neighborhood.
Recovery Residence Administrator must:
- Maintain a physical environment that meets resident needs consistent with the recovery residence level of certification and/or licensure standards.
- Maintain a recovery residence that provides an alcohol and illicit drug-free environment.
- Maintain a recovery residence that reflects the principles of a home-like environment that promotes community.
- Implement and maintain good citizen policies to ensure that the residence are courteous and compatible with the neighborhood and responsive to neighbor concerns, including but not limited to smoking, loitering, parking, noise, lewd or offensive language, cleanliness and interaction with neighbors/concerned parties.
- Implement a property maintenance plan to proactively maintain both physical safety and a clean/orderly appearance of all physical.
- Promote home and resident safety by implementing and maintaining safety and emergency policies and procedures to address resident health, smoking/fires, natural disasters, and crisis intervention.
- Implement and promote peer governance of the residence in meaningful ways, such as resident established and implemented house rules, a residence council, leadership activities and/or peer mentoring/role modeling.
- Maintain a “functionally equivalent family” within the residence as evidenced by policies and procedures regarding resident involvement with food preparation, household chores, use of common areas, expenses, and planned house meetings.
The following information is taken from NARR’s principles on running and maintaining a recovery oriented, resident focused-house.
Core Principle: Promote Recovery
Create a home-like environment: Applies to all levels of support.
- Furnishings are typical of those found in single family homes or apartments as opposed to institutional settings.
- Entrances and exits that are home-like (vs. institutional or clinical)
- 50+ sq ft per bed per sleeping room.
- One sink, toilet and shower per six residents.
- Each resident has personal item storage.
- Each resident has food storage
- Laundry services are accessible to all residents.
- Working appliances.
- A staffing plan that provides for addressing repairs and maintenance in a timely fashion.
Promote Community: Applies to all levels of support.
- Community room (space) large enough to reasonably accommodates community living and meetings.
- A comfortable group area, a living room or sofas, for participants to informally socialize.
- A kitchen and dining area(s) that encourages residents to share meals together.
- Entertainment or recreational areas and/or furnishings that promote social engagement.
- Furniture that is in good condition
Core Principle: Promote health and safety
Create a home safety: Applies to all levels of support.
- Affidavit from the owner or operator attesting that the residence meets nondiscriminatory local health and safety codes OR document from government agency or credentialed inspector attesting to the property meeting health and safety
- Signed and dated safety self assessment checklist which includes: Functioning smoke detectors in the sleeping rooms
Functioning carbon monoxide detectors, if there are gas appliances Functioning fire extinguishers in plain sight and/or clearly marked locations Interior and exterior of the property is in a functional, safe and clean condition and free of fire hazards
- Smoke-free living environment policy and/or designated smoking area outside of the residence.
Have an emergency plan: Applies to all levels of support.
- Post emergency numbers, procedures and evacuation maps in conspicuous
- Collect emergency contact information from residents and orient them to emergency procedures.
Core Principle: Good neighbors
Are compatible with the neighborhood: Applies to all levels of support.
- If recovery residence is in a residential neighborhood, there are no external indications that the property is anything other than a single family household typical of its neighborhood.
- The property and its structures are consistently
Are responsive to neighbor concerns:
- Policies and procedures that provide neighbors with the responsible person(s) contact information upon request.
- Policies and procedures that require the responsible person(s) to respond to neighbor’s concerns even if it is not possible to resolve the
- New resident orientation includes how residents and staff are to greet and interact with neighbors and/or concerned
Have courtesy rules:
- Policies that are responsive or preemptive to neighbor’s reasonable complaints regarding:
- Smoking Loitering Parking Noise
- Lewd or offensive language
- Cleanliness of public space around the property
- Parking courtesy rules where street parking is allowed and where it is not.
FARR will adhere to NARR standards for maintaining the physical residence. However, it is important to understand in more flushed out detail what maintaining the physical residence means in actual practice.
The following can be used as ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES for maintaining the physical residence.
Recovery residence may be asked to provide written documentation of compliance with the following:
- local zoning ordinances;
- local business license requirements;
- local building codes;
- local fire safety regulations;
- local health codes;
- local approval from the appropriate government agency for new program services or increased client capacity.
The recovery residence should always maintain the appearance, safety and cleanliness of the building and grounds.
The following is an example of suggestions for how a Certified Recovery Residences could be maintained as part of a policy and procedure program. These can be adapted to suit the actual residence.
- Live-in staff, who may be a client, should have a separate sleeping area with a private bathroom.
- The recovery residence should have a designated secure location that serves as an administrative office for records, secretarial work, and bookkeeping if such work is done onsite.
- the recovery residence should have locking bathrooms. Clients should have access to a toilet, lavatory sink, and a tub or shower. These should be maintained in good operating order and in a clean and safe condition;
- client to bathroom ratios should comply with the residential international building code, as administered by the local government authority;
- each bathroom should be maintained in good operating order;
- there should be mirrors secured to the walls at convenient heights;
- each bathroom should be ventilated by mechanical means or equipped with a screened window that opens;
- clients will be notified prior to admission regarding their responsibilities related to the provision of toiletries.
- Sleeping Accommodations:
- a minimum of 60 square feet per client should be provided in a multiple occupant bedroom and 80 square feet in a single occupant bedroom. Storage space shall not be counted;
- sleeping areas should have a source of natural light, and should be ventilated by mechanical means or equipped with a screened window that opens;
- each bed, none of which should be portable, shall be solidly constructed;
- sleeping quarters serving male and female clients should be structurally separated and have locking bedroom doors;
- clients should be allowed to decorate and personalize bedrooms with respect for other clients and property;
- a bedroom on the ground floor should have a minimum of one window that may be used to evacuate the room in case of fire;
- a bedroom that is not on the ground floor (this includes basements) should have a minimum of two exits, at least one of which shall exit directly to outside the building that may be used to evacuate the room in case of fire;
- furniture and residence equipment shall be of sufficient quantity and quality to meet recovery residence and client needs;
- all furniture and residence equipment shall be maintained in a clean and safe condition;
- clients will be notified prior to admission regarding their responsibilities related to the provision of bedding and
- Weapons Safety:
- all facilities should have and comply with a written weapons
- Laundry Service:
- recovery residences should provide either equipment or reasonable access to equipment for washing and drying of linens and clothing;
- laundry appliances shall be maintained in good operating order and in a clean and safe condition.
- Meals may be prepared by staff or clients at the recovery residence or meals may be catered.
- If the recovery residence provides food for clients, it should comply with food service requirements as follows:
- current weekly menu should be posted in the kitchen and the office;
- the staff or clients responsible for food service should maintain a current list of clients with special nutritional needs, should provide food that meets those needs, and record in the client’s service record information relating to special nutritional needs.
- The recovery residence should have one or more kitchens, which should have clean and safe operational equipment in sufficient quantity for the preparation, storage, serving, and clean- up of all meals.
- The recovery residence should have dining space/s large enough to provide seating for all clients. The dining space should be maintained in a clean and safe condition.
- When meals consumed by clients are prepared by staff or other clients, the recovery residence should have and comply with a written policy that complies with all minimum requirements of the local Health Department.
- Clients will be notified prior to admission regarding their responsibilities related to the provision or preparation of food.
Hazardous Chemicals and Materials
- The recovery residence shall provide safe storage for hazardous chemicals, materials, and aerosols, including but not limited to poisonous substances, explosive or flammable substances, bleach, and cleaning supplies. The recovery residence should maintain hazardous chemicals, materials, and aerosols in their original packaging and follow the manufacturer’s instructions printed on the label.
- At a minimum, each residence must have smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and exit signs.
- There should be one smoke detector in living area and at least one smoke detector per bedroom.
- There must be one fire extinguisher per floor mounted and with signage.
- There must be a minimum of two exit signs per home showing two ways of exit.
- Facility maintains documentation of proper maintenance of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and exit signs.
- Smoke detectors should be checked monthly, fire extinguishers should be inspected annually.
- Fire extinguishers must be mounted in plain sight and the location is clearly marked with signage.
- There must be one fire extinguisher per floor.
- If applicable, state licenses, certificates of occupancy and other required documents are visible for public view.
Recovery Conducive Housing:
Architectural aspects of design should be similar to those for regular residences with a few important differences.
- Sociopetality: Design should encourage residents to contact each other incidentally, informally, and without status barriers. Mundane contacts with each other during the course of the day are the medium for recovery in a well-designed
- Personalization and comfort: Residents should feel the place is their own. This means allowing room for personal possessions, decorating one’s own area, etc
- Durability and quality of furnishings: Only the highest quality fixtures, materials, appliances and furniture should be used. The extra investment in the beginning repays itself many times over.
Beyond Regulations: Providing Quality Living For Residents
We have already established that a good recovery residence is safe, well maintained, has suitable space for its residents and is in keeping with neighborhood standards. This chapter talks about what is needed to operate a successful recovery residence beyond implementing the required standards and procedures; what makes a residence truly about promoting recovery and wellness.
The following are additional guidelines for maintaining a well run/ successful recovery residence:
- The residences’ appearance must be neat, and the home and grounds maintained in a manner consistent with other homes in the neighborhood.
- The residence must be equipped and furnished in accordance with FARR inspection guidelines. Common areas must be adequate for the number of residents in the home, and must be freely accessible to all residents.
- The residence must, to the extent possible, not give any outward indication that it is a sober living home.
- Residents are a family, and entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their home and property.
- Homes serving both men and women must meet additional requirements to ensure the privacy and safety of their residents.
- Resident rights to utilize common areas must be consistent with the family nature of the household.
- Homes are expected to be responsive to neighbors’ complaints with respect to secondhand smoke.
- Smoking areas must not abut adjacent property or allow excessive smoke to enter neighboring homes or yards.
- Coed homes must have separate bathrooms for each gender, provide clearly separated living quarters and otherwise be suitable for a mixed population.
- Parent/Child homes must provide suitable, safe play areas for children. Parent/Child homes must ensure adequate supervision of children whose parents are absent from the home.
- House rules must foster behavior among residents which is respectful of neighbors and the community.
- Excessive neighborhood or community complaints are evidence of poor residence management, and will be considered as possible grounds for termination of residence privileges.
- Residents must be given the contact information of a responsible party representing the residence, and instructed that the information must be provided to neighbors upon request.
- A responsible party representing the residence must respond to neighborhood complaints within 12 hours of receipt of a complaint, even if it is not possible to resolve the issue immediately.
- Rules regarding noise, smoking, and loitering must be responsive to neighbors’ reasonable complaints.
- In neighborhoods where street parking is scarce, residences must have and enforce rules regarding parking courtesy such that residents do not monopolize parking in areas immediately adjacent to the residence.
- Recovery Residences are expected to make a positive contribution to the life of the neighborhood. Residences which cause problems for neighbors are not providing their residents with the living skills that are an integral part of the sober living experience.
Residence rules are an important component of a safe and supportive recovery environment. Residences take a variety of structural approaches in this regard. Prohibitions include weapons, physical violence, threats of violence and abusive behavior or language. These requirements apply to house rules generally, regardless of the form of the residence organization or the resident community.
Think of these guidelines:
- House rules must be based on respect for the dignity of the individual.
- Threats, antisocial conduct, lewdness and behavior which violates the principle of respect for the individual must be strictly prohibited, and the prohibitions must be strictly enforced.
- All residents must be actively involved in self-directed recovery program activities. Homes may promote activities inside and outside the home, provided that such services do not alter the family nature of the home.
The heart of the recovery residence experience is the process of learning how to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. Most know that this process requires addiction education, support, willingness to change and commitment to recovery and wellness. However, what is equally as important is for the recovering person to learn how to live a sober day to day life – independently. Recovering residents need to learn\re-learn how to care for themselves, i.e hygiene, cooking, cleaning. A well run recovery residence can act as a role model for healthy successful in-community living. Learning how to socialize, communicate well with others, establish relationships at different levels and developing care and concern for others, understanding that the well-being of a community aids in the well-being of an individual.
Regarding the concept of living a drug and alcohol free lifestyle and how to monitor abstinence in a recovery residence is an important aspect of managing relapse situations. Many recovery residence administrators question, or are questioned by residents, about the need and/or appropriateness of toxicology screening. To run a safe residence toxicology screening is of the utmost importance. Where residences sometimes fall down is in ensuring that toxicology screening is conducted in a consistent and fair manner by competent and trained individuals.
To ensure consistency and fairness adhere to the following guidelines:
- The home must document its disciplinary processes for residents who test positive for prohibited substances or who are otherwise determined to be in violation of abstinence rules.
- The home must have and uniformly enforce a written toxicology testing protocol.
- The home must document the training given to residents or staff responsible for administering toxicology tests.
Residence activities should promote recovery and facilitate mutual recovery support among residents; as such weekly family meetings of residents are permitted and encouraged. In addition, residences are encouraged to provide a variety of opportunities to engage in life-affirming recovery activities inside and outside the residence. However, such activities should be voluntary on the part of residents to encourage independent living skills. Residences must ensure that residents are actively engaged in their self-determined programs of recovery.
After a summit in 2014NARR reviewed and revised their standards and incorporated The Social Model of Recovery into their domains, core principles and standards. The social model of recovery supports a recovery-oriented chronic-care approach.
Social Model – socio-cultural elements & structure that promote ubiquitous support, accountability & connectedness.
A recovery-oriented, chronic care approach:
- Philosophy and practices are different than medical/ clinical based treatment models Emphasizes social and interpersonal aspects of recovery using recovery as the common bond
- Values experiential knowledge and mutual support
- Views recovery as a person-driven, life-long and holistic process
- The physical environment of a certified recovery residence:
“The physical space of a social model program is vital. It must promote interaction between staff and participants and each other. Social model environments feel more like homes rather than clinical settings.”
To what degree does it feel like a home?
- Architecturally and functionally homelike
- Community space (%) •“Welcome mat”
- Everyone pitches in as a family, e.g. food prep or house chores
Recovery residences are sober, safe, and healthy living environments that promote recovery from AOD use and associated problems. At a minimum, recovery residences offer peer-to-peer recovery support with some providing professionally delivered clinical services all aimed at promoting abstinence-based, long-term recovery.
As we have learned in this course, having a residence that is safe, properly furnished and regulated residence is required to meet standards. However, along with core physical maintenance a recovery residence must provide an environment conducive to community and recovery. A Certified recovery residence assures residents they will be supported and well-cared for until they can care for themselves.