The Awful Truth About Oxford Houses (Part 1)
For anyone unfamiliar with an “Oxford House,” I’ll give you a bit of info to get you started. You can do an online search and find them pretty easily. I would rather not post a bunch of their info onto my own page.
Who lives in them?
Oxford Houses are supposed to be self-run, democratic, group-type homes for people who are in recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction. The philosophy is that people who have been through the hell of active addiction provide better-quality, no-judgment support than those who have not, and when a person is in the early stages of being clean and sober, they will fare better in a household of their peers.
They need a house filled with people very much like them for the support, accountability, and sense of belonging. Many times an addict or alcoholic has “burned bridges” with family and friends and has nowhere left to go after detoxing or getting out of rehab. Oxford Houses are meant to be a safe transition to regular life, and this transition is vital to anyone whose ability to not use or drink often depends on simply having someone to keep a close eye on them.
So it’s like a halfway house?
Oxford Houses are not halfway houses. You can think of them as 3/4 houses. You have a lot more freedom than you would have in a halfway house, but you do have a curfew and are required to get a job  and attend recovery meetings. And you absolutely cannot drink alcohol in any form, use illicit drugs, or abuse any prescriptions.
What do they look like?
The house that you move into is supposed to be in a nice neighborhood and indistinguishable in quality from any other houses in the area. It’s not a “facility” or commercial establishment. It is a residence. One of the more humorous descriptions I have read about the houses is that they are supposed to be “upscale.” I have yet to see one that fits this description. They are required to have at least 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. Every house must allow 6 residents at a bare minimum in order to apply for and to keep an Oxford House “charter,” which simply means that the house requires that all members adhere to the 3 Basic Rules of Oxford House. There are also no co-ed houses.
So, what’s the problem?
In theory, this is an excellent plan. What better way to get back on your feet than in a safe environment that doesn’t judge you for the crazy and dangerous things you did when you were sloshed, high, or both? Knowing that if you are using or drinking anything you shouldn’t, the people you live with can tell, and they won’t believe any of your lies or manipulation because they’ve seen it all and said it all before and will kick you out for it? It’s such a simple plan, and it would work, if not for a simple lapse in logic. The very reasons people need to be in an Oxford House are exactly why none of the houses should be self-governing or self-run. People in those circumstances don’t tend to be all that good at watching out for themselves, much less anyone else coming into the environment in worse shape than they are.
That sounds like a system failure.
The fact that you have an entire system of drunks and dopeheads (in recovery, of course) running anything on their own without having to answer to a social services agency, mental health professionals, or even an accountant means that the inmates are running the asylum, and they will usually run it into the ground and destroy a few lives in the process.
Read Part 2:
- ^ Unless you receive a disability or retirement income or already have a job.
- ^ Each member must pay their share of the household expenses each week, no drug or alcohol use, no disruptive behavior.