Why your community needs specialist recovery housing


Specialist recovery housing

Local authorities spend approximately £800m a year on drug and alcohol treatment [1] and around £500m a year on reducing homelessness [2]. And yet a quarter of people in drug treatment are still homeless or in unstable accommodation, hindering their chances of recovery [3]. And more people struggle to access treatment due to lack of accommodation. Closing this gap between substance misuse treatment and homelessness benefits everyone in our communities. As both a homelessness provider and substance misuse charity, we have unique insight into both the problem and the solution. 

What's the problem?

On the road to better health, food and shelter are the first steps. None of us can focus on getting better in the long term if our priority is finding a safe place to sleep in a month, a week or even tonight. 

Over 9,000 people per annum access treatment with an acute housing problem [4], hindering their progress towards a healthy life. This costs society money in substance misuse treatment that is less effective, or inaccessible, and a wide range of costs associated to homelessness and poor health.

People in recovery face a wide range of issues when accessing housing:

  • There is a national housing shortage [5]

  • Private landlords and housing associations are reluctant to let their properties to people with complex histories, failing to recogise the gains made in treatment [6] 

  • Getting a deposit together can be impossible for some people

  • Managing a tenancy is a challenge without support 

  • Hostels do not provide an appropriate environment for people in recovery [7]

  • People need a local connection to get housing support from their local authority - people in recovery often distance themselves from high risk situations and triggers from the past to start a fresh life [8]

What is being done about it?

Substance misuse treatment providers and homelessness organisations have improved in their efforts to aid their service users to find accommodation and improve access to treatment, but even so, the percentage of homeless people in treatment is rising as all categories of homelessness increase [9]. There is a particular problem finding appropriate accommodation for people with complex histories, for whom a history of unemployment, poor health and discrimination are common, and the route to housing is impossible to navigate [10].

Thinking differently about the problem to find a new solution 

We need to continue to help those people who can find appropriate accommodation, but for those who can't, we need to think differently and develop a different kind of solution. We need to provide housing and substance misuse support all in one place, making it easy for people with complex needs.

Specialist recovery housing is the answer, housing that enhances people's potential and supports long term recovery. It exists already but only in very small numbers. Where it does exist it provides the mutually supportive environment and expert support people need to build their recovery. For people with complex needs it closes the gap between housing and the wider support they need to get better and re-integrate into the community. It helps people progress in life to be healthier, find their place in the world, and move onto stable accommodation of their own, as well as encouraging them to contribute to society through supporting others, volunteering and employment. We've developed 4 different types of provision that work for people as their needs change over time.

Why is our recovery housing solution more effective than generic housing

  • We understand the tenant's treatment experience and what they need to develop their recovery in the long term
  • We create and maintain an abstinent environment 
  • We assess and support tenants based on their strengths and future potential, valuing their journey to date 
  • Tenants benefit from mutual support from likeminded housemates with mutual experience, inspiration and goals
  • Houses are located in areas that offer anonymity and access to recovery assets enabling clients to build recovery capital  
  • Expert staff support clients supported by a wider organisation with specialist expertise

And it is cost effective. It is conservatively estimated that someone with homelessness and substance misuse problems costs society nearly £20,000 per annum in support costs [11]. For the 33,000 people with both homelessness and substance misuse problems, this equates to a cost to society of over £600 million per annum. What's more, the costs rack up year on year. For people stuck in a cycle of homelessness and substance misuse the estimated lifetime support cost per person is £250,000 [12]. However if we provide a different kind of solution to the problem we could transform lives and make enormous savings. 

A specialist recovery housing scheme costs £7,300 per bed per annum and is proven to be an effective means of helping people with complex needs transform their lives. 

However, specialist recovery housing can also integrate with existing local authority housing pathways, increasing capacity and unblocking the backlogs so that the system works better for everyone.

Recovery housing stories

"It’s important to be around people who understand you and recovery, that peer support is such a powerful thing"

“Treatment would’ve been a massive waste of time if I hadn’t had a clean, safe place to go to after leaving rehab”

The Evidence

There is a strong evidence base around recovery housing. We are currently undertaking new research on the effectiveness of this approach and we'll be sharing our findings soon.

“Sober living houses are an excellent example of an underutilized modality that could help provide clean and sober living environments to individuals completing residential treatment, engaging in outpatient programs, leaving incarceration, or seeking alternatives to formal treatment.” (Polin et al, 2008) [13]


What you can do

Do you work for a Local Authority that doesn't have a specialist recovery housing? talk to us about how we can work with you to help your budgets go further.

Want to visit a specialist recovery housing scheme and see how it works? We’ll love to show you around.

Are you a substance misuse provider that wants to provide a different type of solution for service users with complex needs? Work with us to increase your effectiveness.

Are you a housing association or private landlord interested in supporting us to develop specialist recovery housing? We’d love to speak to you.

Please contact Jessica Douglas, Business Development Manager, on 07814 984 994 or at jessica.douglas@phoenixfutures.org.uk 





[1] http://www.collectivevoice.org.uk/news/collective-voice-response-dclg-consultation-business-rates-retention/

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/number-of-young-homeless-people-in-britain-is-more-than-three-times-the-official-figures-10366229.html

[3] http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/adult-statistics-from-the-national-drug-treatment-monitoring-system-2014-2015.pdf

[4] http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/adult-statistics-from-the-national-drug-treatment-monitoring-system-2014-2015.pdf

[5] http://m.england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns_/why_we_campaign/what_is_the_housing_crisis

[6 ] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmcomloc/40/4006.htm#_idTextAnchor009

[7] and [8] http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/PressPolicy/News/vw/1/ItemID/357

[9] http://www.homeless.org.uk/facts/homelessness-in-numbers

[10] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmcomloc/40/4009.htm#_idTextAnchor039

[11] and [12 ] http://lankellychase.org.uk/multiple-disadvantage/publications/hard-edges/

[13] Douglas L. Polcin & Diane McAllister Henderson (2008) A Clean and Sober Place to Live: Philosophy, Structure, and Purported Therapeutic Factors in Sober Living Houses, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 40:2, 153-159, DOI: 10.1080/02791072.2008.10400625


Phoenix Futures is a registered charity in England and Wales (No 284880) and in Scotland (No SCO39008); Company Limited by Guarantee Number 1626869; Registered Provider of Social Housing with Homes England (H3795).