Providing Technical Support for NARR 1&2 Recovery Housing

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Recovery Housing still not a priority

Posted on December 28, 2019 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)
We are interested in hearing from you in the community about what you think is needed in Southern Wisconsin in terms of housing for individuals who are in recovery or seeking to live in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Bill Lauer's Remarks at the April 21 Listening Day

Posted on April 22, 2016 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (2)

Hello, I am Bill Lauer. . I am a person in long term Recovery. I am the founder of Friends of Recovery WI, which advocates for recovery housing and I earn my living being a landlord. I understand the housing issue. The term “sober house” or Sober Living’ is an umbrella term that has come to mean a lot of different things. SO I want to clear that up first. I use the term “recovery residence” to describe a residence where people self-identify as being in recovery from addiction as the reason for living in the residence. These people are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act for reasons more closely aligned with the mission of the Department of Health Services.

This is different from a reentry house where sobriety is a condition of supervision and the focus is on returning to society after incarceration. These are more closely aligned with the mission of the Department of Corrections and are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Around the state, re-entry residences are popping up, calling themselves “sober living” which causes confusion between the two types of housing. The recently introduced Assembly Bill 889, sought to define “sober living residences” in statute as different from reentry programs, CBRF’s and halfway houses. Thank You, Senator Miller for co-sponsoring that bill. The easiest way for the state to discourage operation of poorly run sober residences is to properly define what we want in statutes. That will end the confusion between recovery and reentry housing and close the door on bad actors. With that said, we are here to talk about Recovery residences.

Madison is the epicenter of “Recovery residences”. This was intentionally created about 10 years ago to develop a model for the state to follow. Currently there are about 140 beds in Madison that fit the peer run, peer financed, model. I would venture to say there are more Recovery beds here than there are treatment beds. An informal survey of these residences revealed that about 25% of the people are in drug court, 40% in recovery from Heroin addiction, and nearly 1/2 have spent time in jail!

This clearly points out that Recovery residences already support people before their addiction takes them to prison, and in that way, needs to be viewed as a preventative measure to reduce prison and jail populations, whereas reentry focuses on after incarceration needs only.


Peer Run Recovery Residences have been the “silent partner” in Dane county’s programing results. Since all program outcomes increase significantly with stable housing, WE ask Dane county to fund a Recovery housing coordinator to bridge the gaps between services and housing options. A little money spent to strengthen this network now, will save more lives later.


At the state level we see similar patterns of need and people served. Residences are popping up all over the place to deal with the Heroin epidemic. They provide a layer of support needed to serve that population before they might be ready for more affordable, long term, peer run recovery. My best guess is that there are about 300 recovery beds available. The peer run, consumer financed model is the most easily expandable to meet the needs of the people in the state of Wisconsin, especially in rural areas where treatment resources are scarce.

I would ask that DHS to conduct a needs assessment of the number of beds needed in the State of Wisconsin to better inform the legislature when a new version of AB889 comes up next session. Recovery Residences save lives at a much lower cost to taxpayers than the revolving door of treatment programs.

One last thing, People coming out of sober living, be it from the recovery side or the reentry side are often times met with barriers to housing for many years. I ask the Attorney General to work with me to pull together people affected by this, along with landlords groups and housing advocates to better understand and implement HUD’s position on the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing as expressed in their letter dated April 4, 2016. HUD’s position offers new hope for people fighting the long term stigma of addiction. And since rental practices fall under ATCP 134 it is within your purview to be proactive in shaping the rental housing industry’s understanding and practices regarding this.

Thank You



Paul Molloy's Testimony to the Joint Finance Committee

Posted on March 12, 2016 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (2)

Oxford House, Inc. • 1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 300 • Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

A 501[c][3] organization listed on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices [NREPP] • Tel. 301-587-2916

Statement of J. Paul Molloy

Cofounder and CEO of Oxford House, Inc.

Oxford House, Inc., the national 501[c][3] umbrella organization for all individual Oxford

Houses, is very interested in developing a partnership with Wisconsin to establish and maintain a

larger network of Oxford Houses in the State of Wisconsin.

Bill Lauer, a leader of the Oxford House™ movement in Wisconsin, has testified before your

Committee and so you know something about Oxford House™ – the only self-run, self-supported

recovery home network listed on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices

[NREPP]. There are now over 1,850 Houses with over 14,500 recovery beds. We are in 44 states -

including the 20 Oxford Houses in Wisconsin that have 162 recovery beds.

I am a fortunate recovering alcoholic who has a happy-ending story. I was a ‘has been’ in that I had

been Republican Counsel to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee but alcoholism caught up with me

and, in 1975, I found myself separated from my wife and living in a county-run halfway house that was

closing. Two things changed my life: (1) the residents of the closing halfway house decided to run the

halfway house themselves, creating the first Oxford House; and (2) while in the halfway house I was

hired as a Republican Counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I held that job for six

years and then joined a major law firm. In 1988, my wife and I remarried and I began the process of

encouraging the spread of Oxford Houses because I knew they worked.

Oxford Houses provide the time, peer support and safe living environment necessary for many

recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and those with co-occurring mental illness to change behavior to

become productive citizens and stay clean and sober. Because OHI has developed a disciplined

system of democratic operation and self-support, individual Oxford Houses – once established – stay

on track. Moreover, the houses are rented real estate that stays on the tax roles just like it would if

rented to an ordinary family. The key to quality control is the Oxford House Charter that is required

for any recovery group wanting to utilize the Oxford House system of operations and the Oxford

House name. An OHI charter has three conditions: [1] the group must be democratically self-run using

the process and practices contained in the Oxford House Manual©; [2] the group must be financially

self-supporting; and [3] the group must immediately expel any resident who returns to using alcohol or

illicit drugs. Last year more than 30,000 individuals lived in an Oxford House in this country and only

16.7% were asked to leave because of relapse.

Two factors enable Oxford House™ to expand readily: (1) the availability of a small start-up loan to

enable groups to rent an ordinary single-family house; and (2) availability of access to on-site technical

assistance from trained outreach workers who teach the time-tested system of operation. OHI is good

at providing both and has contracts with 20 states to do just that. We would like a contract with

Wisconsin where Bill has made a good start but needs help to develop more Oxford Houses.

Our FY 2014 Annual Report is downloadable from our website: It describes

how OHI develops strong statewide networks of Oxford Houses. More than 20 years ago we opened

the door on solid third-party recovery research and the proof is in. Oxford Houses work and the cost of

expansion is very low.

I urge the Committee to support funding for further development of Oxford Houses in Wisconsin.


NEWS RELEASE - Budget Funding Sought

Posted on March 19, 2015 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

News Release Contact: Mr. Bill Lauer 608-213-2964 March 20, 2015 Mr. Gary Goyke 608-219-5237

For Immediate Release


Budget Funding Sought for Oxford House Expansion in Wisconsin


Supporters and residents of Oxford Houses in Wisconsin are testifying in the Joint Finance Committee hearings around the state to educate the public and legislators about the Oxford House program and to seek State support for expanding the network of Oxford Houses.


Oxford Houses are self-run, self-supported recovery homes for recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and those with co-occurring mental illnesses. The highly successful program is the only recovery home program listed as a best practice on the federal National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). There are currently 20 Oxford Houses in Wisconsin and over 1,800 Oxford Houses across the nation. Started in 1975, the program has a very low relapse rate. Nationally, fewer than 20 percent of residents are expelled for relapse. Independent studies have demonstrated that Oxford Houses provide the time, peer support and necessary for long-term behavior change to take place.


Groups starting Oxford Houses receive a charter from Oxford House, Inc., the organization’s umbrella group. The charter requires that: (1) the House be run democratically by the residents, following the procedures in the Oxford House Manual; (2) the group must be financially self-supporting with each resident paying an equal share of House rent and expenses; and (3) the House residents agree to immediately expel any resident who relapses and uses drugs or alcohol. Because the Houses are self-run and self-financed, there is no need for time limits on residency. Residents stay as long as necessary to achieve comfortable sobriety. Residents govern themselves, elect House officers (with term limits to avoid ‘bossism’ and permit all residents to hold office at different times), hold regular House meetings, and pay their own rent and expenses. All residents get jobs and it is in the interest of all House members to help residents get jobs since everyone has to pay an equal share of rent and expenses. As a result there is usually an internal ‘jobs network’ that helps residents get and keep jobs.


The existing Oxford Houses in Wisconsin have been successful but there is a need for many more recovery beds in the state. Those states with the most Oxford Houses give grants to Oxford House, Inc. to support sending trained outreach workers to the state to help groups of recovering individuals find suitable houses to rent and teach them the system of operation. The funds also permit establishing funds to provide a start-up loan of $4,000-$6,000 to each group starting a new Oxford House. The loans are repayable by the group over 24 months. Development costs are low because, once started, each Oxford House is self-run and self-supported.


Oxford House, Inc. is able to develop 24 new Oxford Houses in a state for a cost of about $850,000 – covering both a start-up loan fund and eight outreach workers in a state. A little over $200,000 would support a small loan fund and two outreach workers. More information about the Oxford House program, the residents of Oxford House, and the costs of development can be found on the Oxford House, Inc. web site at: Note in particular the latest Annual Report featured on the home page.


We are advocating for an amendment to AB 21/SB 21 which would expand this efficient, cost effective program. Sober Housing Saves!


Editorial by Bill Lauer, Founder of Friends of Recovery, Inc.

Posted on February 23, 2015 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Safe housing a must for long term Sobriety

When I was in treatment, I was advised to not go back to my hometown Milwaukee, where I used drugs. My using was so wrapped up in so many neighborhoods there; I knew I couldn’t find a place to live without temptation. My using history was all around me. I was very lucky to find a well-run sober house in another state to call home for 3 months after my insurance ran out. I was able to stay as long as I needed to get comfortable with my sobriety. At that time, the sober housing option didn’t exist in Wisconsin. Today’s addicts and alcoholics are more fortunate. The network of sober housing in Wisconsin has grown over the years. But not enough to meet today’s need.

The best sober houses are democratically run to teach us addicts and alcoholics how to live with others. Self-governance teaches us about accountability and cooperation. If there is a “house manager” to gain the favor of, we never get the chance to learn to be 100% responsible for our lives. Paying our own rent relieves the burden of our recovery from society. And we use a proven, evidence-based system of operations like Oxford House. Members who relapse are immediately expelled, which teaches us to be serious about recovery and to protect our sobriety. People can re-apply after 30 days, which teaches us compassion and offers us hope in our own recovery. Sober houses are not extensions of treatment centers, churches or Corrections. They are single family houses where members vote on all aspects of house operations including who lives there. No one is asked to leave without cause. The members’ common commitment to recovery creates a peer to peer community that stresses accountability where the principle of one addict helping another has proven to work in a way that treatment or incarceration cannot.

Because of the chronic nature of addiction, long-term support is necessary to help people learn a sober lifestyle. It is well documented that stable housing is the foundation of success when working with at risk populations. For drug addicts and alcoholics this is especially true. Everybody recovers at a different pace. In 2012, 23,395 individuals received treatment in Wisconsin. Statistically, about 60% will relapse the first year and require additional treatments. Nationally, the average number of times people will go to inpatient treatment is 3.2 times; 6 times if we are treating heroin addiction. The current system gets pretty expensive. For those utilizing a long-term sober house in their recovery about 80% are likely to still be sober at the end of that year compared to those that just went to treatment and attended meetings or counseling.

There is no ongoing cost to taxpayers to operate an Oxford House. The members themselves share that responsibility. It does cost taxpayers a little for the technical assistance and the support necessary to maintain a network of houses, usually, pennies on the dollar of treatment or incarceration costs. The average cost of living in a sober house in Madison is $450 per bed, per month, where the resident pays their rent and they can stay as long as they want. Rent includes utilities, internet, supplies, etc., everything except food, personal products and bedding. County or state financed half way houses cost close to $2000 per bed per month and every 30 days or so have to make room for the next group coming out of treatment, usually before the people living there are ready to move on. This forces them to go back to the same environment that supported their addiction. This is a set up for failure. It’s like giving a diabetic insulin and a pamphlet and sending them home with no follow up care to change their diet and other known causes of diabetes.

Sober houses are not a replacement for treatment, counseling or 12-step groups. They build on those programs and provide a safe place to integrate life skills with people working on the same life issues. My parents taught me well, but in my using, I forgot how to live. I needed to relearn the basics of self-sufficiency. More than half the members of sober houses have done jail or prison time and experienced homelessness. About 30% participate in jail diversion or bail monitoring programs. Since stable housing is a bed rock of stopping recidivism, low cost sober housing can be expanded to meet this need, without adding a huge cost to taxpayers.

Most addicts want to recover and build new lives and repair the damage they have done in the world. We do not need a handout. Handouts sabotage the recovery principle of accepting responsibility for our actions. Many of us have spent a lot of government money in treatment centers for which we owe a debt to society. Living in democratically run, self-financed, cooperative housing has proven to work, allowing people to become responsible, taxpaying members of society.

There are a growing number of states that have been using sober housing to support their AODA treatment, Jail Diversion and re-entry programs. The research shows lower recidivism, lower relapse rates, increased incomes for those living in sober housing, lower costs to the state and an increase in lives saved by adding this option to the continuum of recovery and support services. Wisconsin should be one of them.




Bill Lauer is the founder of Friends of Recovery, Inc. which has been involved with opening 14 sober houses in Wisconsin using the Oxford House, Inc. concept since 2000.


Real Recovery is Always Developmental

Posted on September 3, 2014 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I just found this....take a minute to read it! 

Methadone Overdose Deaths

Posted on May 10, 2014 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

This CDC article is 2 years old, but still relevant.  And still frightening.

High-Functioning Alcoholics

Posted on May 2, 2014 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)


Many of us know someone who is, or likes to think they are, a 'high functioning alcoholic.'

This person is usually a well-respected professional, a leader in the community, and spends substantial amounts of time working at various charities. It breaks my heart to know that unless this person WANTS to get better, this disease will kill him or her.  But not before it destroys their health, their self-esteem, their career, their children, their spouse, their friends, their standing in the community, the respect of their colleagues, ... and the list goes on and on.

If you know someone like this, maybe this article will help: