How to Start a Halfway House for Jail Inmates

By Elizabeth (Lisa)Thompson

After spending time in jail, inmates may face a difficult transition back into the community. A challenging home environment, if they have a stable place to live at all, makes successful adjustment to life outside detention complex. Old friends and negative associates can further complicate rehabilitation. Entering a halfway house or supervised environment offers a solution for released jail inmates as they readjust to society and look for productive work. Opening a halfway home may present a challenging, yet rewarding opportunity and provides much needed services for residents.

Understand your state requirements. Most states do not mandate that the facility be licensed; however, local zoning laws may restrict the number of residents who can stay in a room. Research the inspections and permits you will need prior to opening the halfway house. This will aid you in your next step, as zoning issues can vary just a few blocks up the street.

Hire a lawyer. A myriad of red tape, ordinances, zoning requirements and issues regarding the number of people who can live in halfway houses and the resulting increase in traffic can overwhelm the novice halfway home owner. A lawyer can guide you through the red tape, in addition to advising you of legalities and liabilities you may incur during the operation of the halfway house.

Choose a location. You may already have a facility you feel would be a perfect fit for a halfway house. You may need to find a location in a good area with favorable zoning laws and convenient for residents.

Offer counseling or, at least, support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous for improved chances of success. Support groups provide recovering addicts, with the assistance they need in remaining alcohol- or drug-free. While a halfway house is not required to offer counseling programs, doing so will make your program more attractive to family members looking for a place to transition the resident into the community.

Set resident and employee policies and prepare handbooks for each. Determine how much you will charge for rent, if the resident will need to pay a security deposit, if the house will be co-ed or not, policies on resident employment, how to keep residents accountable, how to address substance abuse, food and toiletry issues, and chores. Decide what qualifications employees need and address responsibilities and scheduling issues.

Hire a responsible and qualified house manager. The house manager can make or break your halfway house, as he usually will be the first contact residents have with your facility. He will enforce policies and decide how to handle disciplinary issues.

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