“For a long time, there’s been a problem with programs identifying themselves as sober homes where they’re anything but,” says Sheridan. In other words, in the poorest of these households individuals can stay and continue to use drugs as long as they pay rent. And occasionally, the sober homes are merely “a way to invest in real estate,” he adds. The cause behind poor-quality sober homes is specifically that “scam operators know they enjoy a discrimination protection” if they say they are running sober homes, says Sheridan, who is associated with NARR, the national organization spearheading industry-wide standards. “Not many cities really understand this.”
On October 1st, the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health at the Florida DCF delivered a report on recovery homes that halts far short of reassuring state guideline, but takes memo of the multiplying of disreputable practices by some sober home operators. The report noted that there is no way at the current time to control the number of sober homes in Florida, even though the latest hearings in the state incorporated evidence that these homes are increasing.
The DCF report mentioned both the FHA and the ADA, and contains an in-depth review of sober home rulings and case law in other states. The people of Port St. Lucie and Delray Beach attested in the latest hearings, mentioning a lack of state regulation and error as liable for the rise in “unscrupulous landlords” who aim at citizens, charging rent but not proposing anything like a sober home.
According to the Delray Beach testament, these operators charge occupants several months’ rent upfront, then force them out and re-rent the quarters. According to the DCF report, “a common thread running through what was presented was that there were bad actors that needed to be regulated or closed down.” The report suggests voluntary licensure, with charges to be paid to DCF. In addition, the report endorses that substance abuse workers licensed by DCF should not be permitted to refer to sober homes that are not qualified.
“The State of Florida cannot regulate a relationship between individuals who have a common interest in being sober, agree to live together and share rent,” the report stated. “If this is truly the case, people should not be discriminated against for this.” In the meantime, the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR) has embraced all 48 of NARR’s standards for recovery home setup, and added two in order to make the ethics valid to the Florida market, says John Lehman, a member of the FARR advisory board.
The DCF report was organized with help from FARR, NARR and other field groups. FARR certification entails that, amongst other things, a tenant attain a household’s guidelines in writing before any currency changes hands, says Lehman. Lehman got into the field in association with his business, which helps assemble for rent costs from clients to sober homes. “It’s still the Wild Wild West” in Florida sober home area, states Lehman. “I’m a firm believer in self-regulation, but the problem is that there is still a very large number of homes that are unwilling to be regulated.”
Specifically, Lehman refers to 200-bed commercial companies that “do not want to apply to FARR.” These are placed in multi-family zoning spaces that don’t meet the NIMBY difficulties seen in smaller or more limited neighborhoods. “This came out of the Florida model—people said, ‘Why don’t we rent some apartments and sublet them and expand our recovery residences?’” says Lehman.
In the essentially unregulated but growing market of recovery houses in Florida, one of the most egregious professional circumstances includes a crossing of limitations, with many sober home operators now opening up intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) in an effort to secure insurance cash.
“Unlawful practices have sprung up like weeds as more IOP licenses are issued in Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Broward counties,” says John Lehman, an advisory board member for the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR), which in the state is trying to get sober home operatives to abide by nationwide criteria for recovery residence operations. “Everyone is chasing the insurance dollar.” If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.