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Sober living facilities remain loosely regulated

Friday, February 20th, 2009
Issue 08, Volume 13.
Dave Reynolds
Special to the Valley News

A column which ran in the Valley News last July 8 dealt with the issue of sober living homes and generated some interesting reader comments. (Check out the Armchair Activist archive at

A follow-up seems in order, as important legislation has been considered since that article ran.

Currently, California law treats sober-living homes of six or fewer residents like single-family homes. They do not need a license as long as they do not provide counseling and detoxification services.

SB 992 (Sen. Wiggins) sought to create a category of licensed facilities known as Adult Recovery Maintenance Facilities.

Currently, these facilities (sober living homes) are not subject to any state requirements. SB 992 sought to impose regulatory structure through licensing.

There is much debate between groups that would have sober living homes be regulated and those who would allow the current situation to continue.

The Sober Living Network/Coalition (SLNC) of Los Angeles supported Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision to veto the bill last fall.

But some organizations, including the rival Sober Living Homes Association, believe that the homes used by the SLNC are operated by unscrupulous persons who skirt local ordinances regarding the number of residents allowed in a dwelling, collect much more money than is required to operate the facility and have little control or interest over what happens in the Advertisement
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SB 992 would have addressed those alleged abuses. Approved by the legislature last summer, Sen. Patricia Wiggins’ (D-Santa Rosa) bill would have required the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs to license Adult Recovery Maintenance Facilities (ARMFs) and apply licensure requirements to sober living homes.

The Wiggins bill would have:

• Defined ARMFs as any facility whose rules, peer-led groups, staff activities or other structured operations are directed toward maintenance of sobriety for adults in early recovery from substance abuse.

• Prohibited (beginning Jan. 1, 2011) state or local agencies from referring any person to an alcohol or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility that is not licensed.

In short, SB 992 would have required sober living homes of any size to strictly adhere to standards set by the state and would have limited the ability of those who are in the business to make a profit while providing little in the way of professional care for residents.

In a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger lamenting his decision to veto SB 992, the group says that the SLNC houses addicts in conditions not conducive to recovery and is profit-, not recovery-, oriented.

Dave Reynolds is a political consultant/writer currently residing in Menifee. During the 1990s he served as chief of staff to the State Assembly Representative from the 66th District.



Comment Profile Imagesomeone
Comment #1 | Tuesday, Mar 3, 2009 at 11:11 am
there are a few sober living homes whose rules and regulations are compromised and are all about profit, i lived in a sober living home or 2 and there were some that were useless and there were some that were okay. i know what i needed when i went there and some didnt provide the help i needed, i am very determined to find what i need and i know how to ask for help. i lived in this one place and i thought it was cool until they changed the rent on me and suckered me into a bible study, they said we had a mandatory house meeting, so i rushed home from work and they pulled out the bible on me, well thats cool for some people, i read the bible but do not depend on it for my recovery, i read the bible for educational purpose, i am not a hardcore NA or AA person, but i do occasionally go, but they didnt even offer that once a month, the whole 3 months i was there i didnt go to any meetings in the house. when i got there i had just had a baby and i didnt have any money or a job, and they didnt even tell me where i could go look for food, or they didnt give me any resources to help me and my newborn baby, it was frustrating, but like i said i am very determined to find what i need. im still sober today and have a beautiful healthy little girl. im in college right now and want to go into social work so i can help open a few sober living homes on my rezervation. alot of people come out of prison or treatment and do not have anywhere to go that is a healthy enviroment, and i beleive i can benefit those people being where i've been.
Comment Profile ImageDave Reynolds
Comment #2 | Tuesday, Mar 3, 2009 at 7:56 pm
Someone, it is the aim of this column to bring out stories like yours. Obviously you had a mixed reaction to your experience in sober living homes. If you are interested in telling more of your story to maybe help other people in similar situations avoid the bad things you went through let me know by posting your comments here. Let me know, and good luck on your recovery.
Comment Profile ImageDiana B
Comment #3 | Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 at 7:17 pm
Some sober livings are no good and I wouldnt even send my dog there,however there is some really wonderful homes, the one I went to changed my life, it was structured, there was recovery there, they helped me to grow up and become a productive member of society, an honest person, a working person, they taught us how to be ladies and live life without the use of drugs. I am forever grateful to those people, I now have 10 years clean and sober and graduated from college and have been at the same job almost 7 years, I could not have did it without them, I was a complete mess. Yes some places are for profit,but there is several that actually help people and I was one of the hopeless dopefienes they helped. I will be graduating from college again in 3 months and I owe alot to this house. So take a look at the recovery rates instead of focusing only on the ones that it did not work for and give it a chance, visit some of these places and see for yourselves, you will see the bad ones and you will see the good ones. Someone like me should of never made it, however, I am making it... And it all started at a soberliving.
Comment Profile Imagesonoma county
Comment #4 | Friday, Feb 19, 2010 at 7:38 am
I believe that all these SLNC houses must be highly regulated,as well as regular weekly check ups of each house. I know of four houses that the people running these homes are still slamming dope,drinking,abusing prescription narcotics,and having young girls over for sexual gratification. they steal peoples social security and these people end up using and getting kicked out and left broke and abandoned. This has happened to a person in particular and he had to be resusitated bedause he had been played one to many times. This house put this man on the street and called an ambulance and told them they found him laying out side,they denied he lived there.This is unacceptable period!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM OUTRAGED AND WILL WORK TO CHANGE THIS PRACTICE. THESE PEOPLE SHOULD BE CHARGED WITH ENDANGERMENT AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND SHOULD BE JAILED!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ARE SOCIETY????!!
Comment Profile ImageD Reynolds
Comment #5 | Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 9:04 pm
I will continue to look at this practice and get back to the readers who are interested. I understand that there are varying levels of professionalism and integrity associated with these establishments, and I will report what I observe, be it positive or negative, as concerns these practices.
Comment Profile ImageSteve M
Comment #6 | Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm
There are licensed sober living environments in Sonoma County,
State of California states that one of the descriptions of what constitutes a family is unrelated adults voluntarialy living together, therefore local governments who seek litigation on occupancy ordinances will lose their case if properly represented. responsible persons will not house more than 2 persons per room. While admittedly many SLE's are unethical and possibly criminal, A few are accountable to the State and Local governments. The bad ones tend to be run by persons straight out of prison or treatment centers and usually have extensive criminal backgrounds. The ones that work with Parole, Probation, and the Courts have an open door policy with the before mentioned entities. Ask for proof that an SLE has such a policy. If not stay away from that SLE.
Comment Profile ImageGUEST
Comment #7 | Monday, May 17, 2010 at 11:52 am
A good sober living home should have "structure" all through the day, starting with a mandatory group wake up prayer and daily readings from the One Day At A Time books, just 10 minutes worth but they're critical for the recovering addict. A meeting a day for the first 30 days, AA/NA, curfews, daily household chore assignments, and weekly group outings and house meetings are important too. Every SL house needs a full time sober and resourceful manager with a locked cabinet for medications and a van to help with transportation issues. The goal is to help the recovering person make the transition to "living" and "loving" a sober day at a time.
Comment Profile ImageMS.T
Comment #8 | Monday, Aug 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm
I am very unhappy to have to live next door to a sober living home where some ignorant neighbors who wanted to sell there house could not and make a large profit they decided to make it a sober living home he exclaimed he needed the money not because he had and interest in helping people with recovery or getting their lives back on track I do not like it because I am a widow living alone and I am not promised that these people will not relapse and start stealing or creating havoc what ever the case may be I want to shut them down
Comment Profile ImageKeygrip
Comment #9 | Sunday, Jul 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm
i am 5 years sober and spent a good portion of that in sober living they are ALL CROOKS and LIARS it is strictly for profit they make you sign contracts that have things that by Cal.State housing laws and Consumer Affairs are ILLEGAL i have yet to see or find one that can be trusted or should be allowed to operate the break NUMEROUS laws and EXPLOIT there tenants to make a buck the state should regulate them if that happened 90% of them would be shut down

Article Comments are contributed by our readers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Valley News staff. The name listed as the author for comments cannot be verified; Comment authors are not guaranteed to be who they claim they are.


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