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Blog Post | May 15, 2020

Highlighting Recovery Housing Operator Experiences During COVID-19

Coronavirus is a universally shared experience bringing various communities together to weather the storm. However, our different experiences of it are as numerous as the people it’s affecting.

One community that is banding together is recovery housing. But, similar to personal experiences of COVID-19, each recovery housing community has a different story to share. 

In this Addiction Professional article, recovery housing administrators in Ohio, Indiana, and Washington offer different recovery housing experiences based on the scope of services. 

One type of recovery house highlighted are those that operate with little or no professional staff. The residents themselves often run those homes, and they depend heavily on rent payments. This month, an online survey of 65 certified Ohio recovery homes revealed that 87% rely on resident payments as part of their income, and 30% of these homes’ residents recently became unemployed. 

As Erim Helms, Executive Director of The Woodrow Project, states, “Our residents are losing their jobs, and in terms of fundraising, we can’t hold large events right now. Individual donors are focusing on supporting organizations on the front lines, and they often don’t see how recovery housing is on the front lines.”

For these recovery homes, COVID-19 is threatening their sheer existence. Long-term, some of these homes will close because of a lack of funding.

All recovery housing operators are also tasked with helping residents process emotions. For some residents, hunkering down and not doing much is business as usual. For others, social distancing and quarantine is a dramatic change that’s making recovery even more challenging. 

Recovery homes have also had to adjust admissions policies and daily operations during the pandemic. New procedures maximize health and food safety, and often, a residence’s interventions have been converted to virtual support meetings. All homes have increased ‘checking-in’ on their residents. 

SAFE Project’s recovery housing team is listening to the needs of the recovery housing community.

During our Economic Relief for Recovery Housing Operators meeting back in April, recovery housing operators shared their first-hand COVID-19 experiences, which included seeking economic relief funds and pivoting recovery house operations. Each operator also shared a key piece of advice.

Rogan O’Donnell, founder of New Foundation Recovery House and a person in recovery, operates a small, eight-person recovery house in Freehold, NJ. Rogan’s accountant was the one who informed him of the economic opportunities available and advised him to apply for the small business loans. His key piece of advice: be very mindful of what’s going on on the economic front and work with your local bank!

Doug Scott, Vice President Mission Advancement, Healing Place, Louisville, KY, is also a person in recovery. The Healing Place is a 1,000 person operation that includes veterans. For Doug, during the current pandemic and beyond, building relationships and a sense of community are key. In his case, a local bank consortium called him letting him know to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and he was able to get two months of payroll covered. Doug’s advice: create an advisory committee that includes reps from local banks and legal. Including constituents in the community is vital because communities recognize the need for recovery houses. Build a case statement explaining the issue you’re addressing to get people to buy-into your cause. Advocate for yourself.

For Jason Jarreau, a person in long-term recovery and a Senior Manager of an Oxford House in Washington, D.C., things are a little different. With over 220 employees and 20,000 members, Oxford House doesn’t qualify as a small business. Members or Oxford House residents pay for the house and serve in officer positions. The houses make up chapters and state associations. Oxford House has been in existence since 1975, and to Jason, what makes it sustainable is the built-in family structure. Oxford house is pivoting to virtual meetings, checking in with staff, and helping members across the country because they rely on it. 

SAFE Project also put together a survey for recovery housing owners and operators to address needs during COVID-19. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, please do so. 

Of the people surveyed, less than half applied for relief funds from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Do you have funding questions? Do you need other resources? Do you need a safe space to voice concerns?

What is the experience of your recovery house? Come talk to us during our Recovery Housing Conversations meetings.

If you’re a recovery house operator and would like more information about how to help your community, contact community@safeproject.us.