Providing Technical Support for NARR 1&2 Recovery Housing

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Bill Lauer's Remarks at the April 21 Listening Day

Posted by on April 22, 2016 at 9:45 AM

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



Categories: Sober Housing, Sober Living in Recovery

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