How to Choose Transitional Housing For You

Transitional housing is a temporary, supportive living environment meant to be a bridge between substance use treatment, incarceration, or homelessness while you develop the skills you need to live independently in a healthy way. Knowing the options available and how to access them can make it easier to find and choose transitional housing that works best for you.

In this article:

The Benefits of Transitional Housing

There is a link between substance misuse, homelessness, and involvement in the criminal justice system.1,2 Research shows that transitional housing is helpful and effective for people experiencing these hardships.1,2 Transitional housing can help you achieve long-term recovery and rehabilitation by providing a safe living environment and easier access to helpful services.1,2,3

Stable, safe housing can also reduce the risk of:2

  • Substance misuse and relapse
  • Involvement in illegal activity
  • Being the victim of a crime, such as assault
  • Decline in mental health
  • Health problems

Transitional housing offers several benefits for residents, including:3,4,5,6,7

  1. Structure: Regardless of the type of transitional housing you go to, there is some type of structure provided. Some transitional homes will be more structured than others. For example, some homes may have a curfew or require you to attend 12-step meetings.
  2. Stability: Having a consistent, safe place to live offers residents a sense of stability. The structure and consistency of a transitional living environment can give you the stability you need to recover.
  3. Accountability: Some transitional homes will provide more accountability than others. For example, some homes may require you to complete drug tests or participate in mental health care while living there. The accountability you need will be different if you are experiencing a substance use disorder (SUD) compared to if you are transitioning from being incarcerated.
  4. Support: Transitional housing exists primarily to offer you support in making positive life changes. Transitional homes offer additional help by linking you with other services like support groups, mental health care, life skills training, or physical health care.

Different Types of Transitional Housing

There are different kinds of transitional housing. This can make it difficult to choose transitional housing if you aren’t sure what kind you need. Transitional housing programs are designed to meet the unique needs of the population they serve. There are different levels:8

  1. Level one: Peer-run. Peer-run transitional homes are run by the residents. Less-supportive services are offered in this type of home. This might be a good fit if you don’t require a lot of support or accountability to stay on track with your recovery and goals.
  2. Level two: A house manager or lead resident oversees the house. There are typically house rules, such as participating in house meetings or abiding by a curfew. This level often requires residents to participate in treatment of some kind. For people with substance misuse, ongoing treatment could include going to an intensive outpatient program or continuing to see your psychiatrist. It may also include attending peer support meetings. Treatment for people transitioning out of homelessness or incarceration might include life skills training or treatment for unresolved mental health conditions.
  3. Level three: This level of transitional housing has an organized and clear hierarchy. You might have professional treatment providers who come to the home to provide services, such as mental health counseling. These homes stress the importance of life skills training, like anger management skills or career planning. Treatment may take place in or out of the home, and you may be required to participate.
  4. Level four: Service-provider residency. This type of transitional housing is in a facility like a rehab center. This is the most structured type of transitional housing where services are required and provided in-home.

You may seek out transitional housing during a big transition, such as graduating from rehab or being placed on parole after being incarcerated. Transitional housing takes into account special considerations for the homeless population. Some transitional homes require all residents to be sober prior to admission. This can be a major barrier to recovery if you are experiencing homelessness because housing instability can make it difficult to continue treatment or stay sober.1

Some research shows that giving unhoused people a safe, stable place to live is necessary before they can be expected to stay sober. If you are currently unhoused and experiencing SUD, some programs may allow you to become a resident and receive treatment for your SUD while  living there.1

Sober Living and Halfway Houses

You might also need transitional housing after being incarcerated. Sometimes people are court-mandated to live in a transitional housing environment or they risk going back to jail or prison.3 However, you may also volunteer to live in a program like this as a way to support your long-term recovery and life goals. Transitional housing that caters exclusively to people who have been incarcerated is sometimes known as a halfway house.

If you are looking for transitional housing after being in rehab or substance misuse treatment, you might find sober living houses as the best option. Sober living environments are transitional homes where every resident is required to be sober.

How to Find Transitional Housing

You can find transitional housing in different ways. If you are experiencing homelessness, you might be able to get referrals from an emergency shelter or food bank. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a government agency that aims to help people find housing options. Contacting them is another way to get in contact with and choose transitional housing.7

If you are looking for a sober living environment, you can ask previous treatment providers for their recommendations. If you are currently in rehab, your treatment team might help you find transitional housing as part of your discharge and aftercare plan. If you aren’t in treatment but still think you could benefit from transitional housing, searching on the internet can help you find sober housing near you.

If you are court-mandated to be in transitional housing, then the court or your parole officer might give you referrals.

Once you find a program, you should ask questions to determine if it’s the right fit for you. Some questions to ask are:

  • What services are available?” Get clear information on what services a home can offer you. Certain services, such as in-home therapy or peer support groups, might be really necessary for your success in transitional housing. Some services might be deal-breakers, while it may be possible to supplement the services a home provides with outside support.
  • “How much does it cost to be a resident here?” Transitional living environments don’t usually accept insurance. Some programs are government-funded and may be free of charge, while others require residents to pay rent.
  • “Is there immediate availability?” Availability is important, especially if you need transitional housing as soon as possible. Transitions can be a vulnerable time, so getting into a home as soon as possible is pivotal to setting yourself up for success.

If you need more help choosing transitional housing, please call 800-963-1579 (Who Answers?) toll-free today to learn more about your treatment options. Help is available 24/7 and calls are always confidential.


  1. Polcin, D.L., Korcha, R., Bond, J., Galloway, G. (2010). What did we learn from our study on sober living houses and where do we go from here? Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 42(4), 425-433.
  2. Polcin, D.L. (2015). Co-occurring substance abuse and mental health problems among homeless persons: Suggestions for research and practice. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 25, 1-10.
  3. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (n.d). LONG TERM OFFENDER REENTRY RECOVERY PROGRAM (LTORR).
  4. National Association of Recovery Residences. (2012). A Primer on Recovery Residences: FAQs.
  5. Manuel, J., Yuan, Y., Herman, D., Svikis, D., Nicholas, O., Palmer, E., & Deren, S. (2017). Barriers and facilitators to successful transition from long-term residential substance abuse treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 74,16-22.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (October 2018). New NIDA Research Reveals the Power of Social Reinforcers.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (November 2021). Homelessness Resources: Housing and Shelter.
  8. National Association of Recovery Residences. (2012). A Primer on Recovery Residences: FAQs.

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