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Recovery Residence Vs. Boarding House

The persistent public debate over the rights of persons in recovery to live together as a family unit rages on in communities throughout our nation. The vast majority who attend town hall meetings express resentful objection to FHAA & ADA protections of this disabled class. Discriminatory statements fly into the record, one right after the other, sometimes for hours at a time. The “sober home” applicant who seeks reasonable accommodation to expand local zoning restrictions regarding the number of unrelated adults permitted to occupy a residential dwelling, a right provisioned by FHAA, often feels threatened in this hostile environment. In the face of this community hostility, it is easy overlook legitimate concerns expressed by neighbors.

One legitimate concern that both sides of this debate might embrace, were we to engage in civil public dialog, is that over-saturation of recovery residences in neighborhoods may undermine a key objective of community based, recovery housing. Recovery Residences are not boarding houses. The term Recovery Residence was promulgated by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) and refers only to standards-based recovery housing. FARR is the NARR Florida affiliate and, as such, certifies provider compliance with the NARR Standard. This Standard is constructed atop the Social Model of Recovery Philosophy (SMRP) which emerged in California seventy (70) years ago, attracted science-based, academic researchers fifty (50) years ago and continues to be aggressively studied today. Evidenced-based measurement of positive consumer outcomes delivered by recovery-oriented support systems that implement the SMRP to varying degrees and at drastically reduced expense to taxpayers and private pay citizens, has generated a resurgence of federal and state interest. Twenty-nine (29) SMRP scale considerations are organized and evaluated under six (6) domains:

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The sixth domain, Community Orientation, includes consideration of both the surrounding recovery community and broader community in which the Recovery Residence is situated. One hallmark of recovery oriented support systems is to foster community engagement and responsible citizenship. By necessity this objective requires access to a two way street, does it not? Residents who are encouraged by Recovery Residence operators to give back to their community must be welcomed to do so by that community. Volunteers willing to suit up and show up to participate in service projects with other citizens should be made to feel welcomed as equal members of that community. They’re not seeking charity. They’re proving charitable contribution of their time and energy for the betterment of their community, just like every other citizen who showed up to volunteer.


Addiction is an isolating disease. Over its course, the afflicted person generally experiences a profound disconnect from all social networks including family, friends and community. This article does not seek to explore the root cause(s) of this isolation, but to simply acknowledge that a key value proposition for community-based recovery housing (for which a preponderance of evidence is recognized by FHAA) is to reintegrate persons in recovery within their surrounding community. Both stakeholders benefit from the successful implementation of this strategy. Siting a dozen recovery residences on a block of thirty homes may, in fact, minimize the effectiveness of this strategy. The point is: we don’t really know, do we? No studies have been funded to arrive at evidence based conclusions. FARR suggests that both stakeholders, community and provider groups, have a vested interest to determining definitive answers to this question. While we will likely continue to debate the many issues that divide us, certainly we can begin to stand common ground and seek funding solutions to conduct fair, unbiased research to inform and guide our collective resolution to this challenging dilemma.

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