Are you or a loved one looking for living arrangements following a rehabilitation or treatment? It can be helpful to know the options. Two popular options are Halfway houses or Oxford houses. Know the similarities and differences so that you can make the best choice for you!

Major differences are the presence of professional staff and prescribed length of stay.

What is a Halfway House?

A halfway house is a place for people to live when they are preparing to re-enter society after living in a full-time facility. These are recognized as treatment facilities.  A halfway house is often for people recovering from addiction or people returning to society after time served in prison. Halfway houses are also helpful for people looking for stable housing after a mental health treatment program.  They are called “halfway” houses because those living in this sort of environment are transitioning halfway between a full-care facility to permanent living in society.

Halfway houses dedicated to sober living are sometimes referred to as sober houses.  Other names include dry houses, community-based residential facilities, recovery residences, transitional living environments, residential re-entry centers, or community release centers.

One benefit of a halfway house is the additional professional support. Often, a halfway house will have staff present for monitoring and support. This provides a structured environment to support people working to prevent relapse.  A halfway house will follow structured programs such as AA.  Different halfway houses will have varying degrees of supervision and support.

Halfway houses are not permanent housing. People living in a halfway house are only permitted a certain length of stay. This can vary, but often range from 6 month to 2 years.

In Pennsylvania, licensed halfway houses follow particular rules and systems approved by the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol programs.  To find a licensed halfway house in Pennsylvania, click here.


What is an Oxford House?

An Oxford house is also a housing program designed to support people committed to a sober lifestyle. However, there are many differences between an Oxford House and a Halfway House.  A major difference is that an Oxford house does not include supervisors or paid staff.  An Oxford house is self-run by the people that live there. The residents elect officers to 6 month terms.  The goal is to build self-help, self-efficacy, and a sense of responsibility through this democracy system.  The philosophy focuses on ownership of one’s own recovery.

An Oxford House is not a facility with a staff or a specific building. An Oxford House is simply a normal rented house for a group of at least six individuals. Any group of recovering people could start a new Oxford House. They can apply for a charter from Oxford House, Inc. for free. Once a charter is established, the house members are responsible for maintaining to home, the bills, and the Oxford House rules.

One rule of an Oxford House is that the residents cannot drink alcohol or use drugs of any kind.  Anyone that breaks this rule is required to leave the house. Another rule is that the resident must pay equal share of house expenses. Everyone shares the responsibilities and chores. Responsibilities include holding each other accountable.  Instead of staff members to supervise and support recovering residents, the group works together to encourage and support each other’s sobriety.

Oxford Houses are typically single-sex adult houses, but some allow residents to live with their minor children.

Another difference between an Oxford House and a Halfway House is the length of stay.  A halfway house allows for stays of a specific program duration. Oxford Houses allow residents to stay for as long as they like. The average stay is for about one year, but there is no rule that requires someone to leave.


The right living environment will depend on an individual’s needs and goals. Be sure to do research and contact any potential living environment with questions for committing to a choice. The more comfortable a person in in their living situation, the better the transition into a healthy lifestyle. Both options can provide great support.