Considerations for Getting into Transitional Housing

Getting into transitional housing can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to look or how to go about it. There are several different kinds of transitional housing options and knowing what to expect will help you decide which housing to pursue.

In this article:

What is Transitional Housing?

Transitional housing is a type of supportive living environment for people who are transitioning from substance misuse treatment, homelessness, or who are re-entering society after being incarcerated. Research shows a link between substance misuse, homelessness, and involvement with the criminal justice system.1,2

If you are experiencing any of these situations, then getting into transitional housing can help with your long-term stability or recovery.1,2,3 For people experiencing co-occurring substance misuse and homelessness or dealing with the criminal justice system, having a safe and stable place to live is pivotal.

Research shows that stable housing decreases the risk of:2

  • Substance misuse and relapse
  • Becoming the victim of a crime, particularly assault
  • Worsening mental health symptoms or functioning
  • Physical health problems

How Do I Get Transitional Housing?

Referrals for transitional housing can come from nearly anyone, including probation or parole officers, medical doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and friends or family. An in-person interview typically follows the referral. Depending on the level of transitional housing, this interview could be with a house manager or, at a more intense level, with a therapist or clinical staff from a larger treatment facility. The person you meet with can answer your questions and may be able to help you with financial options.

The costs of transitional housing also depend on the level you are entering. State or federal funding sources often sponsor higher intensity programs. Lower-level recovery homes require residents to pay rent and other expenses on time each month.

Who Can Help Find Transitional Housing?

Getting into transitional housing is a different process depending on your needs.

If you are looking for a SLH type of transitional house, you might be able to find one by asking a treatment provider for their recommendation. If you are in residential treatment, your provider might include referrals to an SLH as part of your discharge plan. If you are looking for an SLH but are not in treatment currently, you might consider researching “sober living homes near me” to see what options are available locally. If you find a sober living home, you can call them directly to inquire about their services.

If you are seeking a halfway house or transitional housing after being incarcerated, then you might ask your parole officer for referrals. If you are court-mandated to live in transitional housing, then the court or your parole officer will likely give you referrals.

If you are experiencing homelessness, you might be able to get referrals to transitional living from an emergency shelter and food bank. Another resource you can use is to contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).4 HUD is a government agency that can help connect you with housing options.4

What are the Benefits of Transitional Housing?

While there are many forms of transitional housing, not every type is right for every person. Every housing situation varies in its structure or what services it offers, and you must take this into consideration when deciding which transitional housing to pursue.

Essential criteria qualify you for approval and admission to live in transitional housing, such as being stable in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). Being honest with your needs and capabilities will help you find housing that is the right fit and amount of structure for you.5

Regardless of the form it takes, transitional housing has several benefits.


All levels of transitional living residencies offer some type of structure. Some offer more than others. Structure may be provided through a house curfew or requirements for residents to participate in house meetings. This structure can be especially helpful if you experience substance use disorders and other mental health issues.5


Having a safe, reliable place to live offers you a sense of stability. Safe housing is a basic human need that everyone requires to thrive. Having a stable housing situation also allows individuals to focus on building a support network or developing skills to help them in their next steps.5


This structure in t will provide you with accountability for your goals. The type of accountability you could benefit from will vary depending on why you need transitional housing. For example, people with substance use disorder might seek a sober living home (SLH) to benefit from accountability in maintaining sobriety and participating in treatment.6


A transitional housing program can provide different types of supportive services. Sometimes supportive services are offered within the house, such as peer support groups, educational training, or mental healthcare. Other times, a transitional housing program can connect you with other services, such as employment services, drug and alcohol counseling, or life skills training.6

Other benefits include:3,4,5,6,7

  • Reducing homelessness
  • Linking you with other supportive services, like mental health treatment, educational or career counseling, life skills training
  • Decreasing risk of substance misuse, relapse, or involvement with criminalized activity

Are There Different Types of Transitional Housing?

The type of transitional housing you seek may be different depending on your needs. For example, someone who is seeking housing as they transition out of homelessness might need a different type of housing than someone transitioning out of rehab for substance use. Transitional housing levels are designed for the unique needs of specific populations, so it’s important to know which may be right for you.4

The four types of transitional housing residencies are defined into the following levels:8

  1. Level one: Peer-run. A peer-run transitional residency is run by the residents. These transitional living environments offer less supportive services offered. There may be in-house peer support groups or drug screenings.
  2. Level two: A house manager or lead resident oversees the house. You will need to follow house rules, such as a curfew and participation in house meetings. Often this level requires residents to participate in treatment, whether it be for substance use, developing positive mental health skills, or getting employment training.
  3. Level three: Supervised transitional houses have a clear hierarchy within the home. This means some staff members on-site provide supportive services or supervision. For example, a mental health professional may be at the house to provide therapy. There is a big emphasis on developing life skills, such as anger management skills, coping skills, or career training. You might be required to attend treatment, whether it’s provided in-house or not.
  4. Level four: Service-provider residency. An example of this type of transitional housing is a residential treatment program. Level-four transitional housing is highly structured, and services are provided in-house.

Finding the Right Housing for Your Situation

There are unique considerations for people who are seeking transitional housing in an attempt to transition out of homelessness.1 Some programs require residents to be sober before entering their program. However, research shows this might be an unrealistic option for people who are experiencing homelessness. It is reportedly more effective for homeless individuals to be provided with housing first and receive treatment during their stay.6 This is considered best practice when treating people experiencing substance use disorder and homelessness.1

People who have been recently released from incarceration might live in a type of transitional living environment known as a halfway house. Some individuals may be court-mandated to live in a residency like this or risk returning to jail or prison.3 Other people may volunteer to be in these homes to support their long-term recovery.3

Another type of transitional housing program is sober living environments. SLH might be a good fit for you if you are transitioning out of drug and alcohol rehab. These types of housing have strict rules against substance use and require you stay sober while you reside there. Living in a sober environment is shown to reduce the risk of relapse.1

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. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021, November 3). Homelessness Resources: Housing and Shelter
  5. National Association of Recovery Residences. (2012). A Primer on Recovery Residences: FAQs.
  6. 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.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, October 15). New NIDA Research Reveals the Power of Social Reinforcers.
  8. National Association of Recovery Residences. (2012). A Primer on Recovery Residences: FAQs

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