Q. What is the philosophy behind Oxford House?
The philosophy behind Oxford House is three-fold:  self-help is the bedrock of recovery,  disciplined democracy is key to living together, and  self-support builds efficacy in sobriety comfortable enough to avoid relapse.
Q. How did Oxford House get started?
In 1975, a tight budget in Montgomery County, Maryland led to a decision to close one of the four county-run halfway houses. The thirteen men living in the halfway house rented the building and decided to run it themselves. They immediately decided to change the rule that limited a stay to six months because they had witnessed that when a person was required to leave because the time was up they almost always relapsed within thirty days of leaving. That was an important change because recovering individuals take different lengths of time to become comfortable enough in sobriety to avoid relapse.
Q. Who manages an Oxford House?
Oxford Houses are democratically self-run by the residents who elect officers to serve for terms of six months. In this respect, they are similar to a college fraternity, sorority, or a small New England town. Officers have fixed terms of office to avoid bossism or corruption of egalitarian democracy.
Q. How long can one live in an Oxford House?
A recovering individual can live in an Oxford House for as long as he or she does not drink alcohol, does not use drugs, and pays an equal share of the house expenses. The average stay is about a year, but many residents stay three, four, or more years. There is no pressure on anyone in good standing to leave.
Q. Why are Oxford Houses self-run?
Oxford Houses are self-run because (1) this permits individuals in recovery to learn responsibility, and (2) the lower cost associated with self-run housing permits extensive replication of houses. Because the houses are self-run and self-supported, it is easier to expand capacity to meet demand rather than requiring individuals to leave in order to make room for newcomers. When demand exceeds the supply of beds, it is traditional in Oxford House for several existing residents to find another house to rent and expand capacity.
Q. How difficult is it to find another house to rent?
It is no more difficult than for an ordinary family to find a house to rent. Each Oxford House is an ordinary single-family house with two bathrooms and four or more bedrooms. Ideally several of the bedrooms are large enough for two twin beds so that newcomers, in particular, are able to have a roommate. This discourages isolation and helps the newcomer to learn or relearn socialization to get the full benefit of recovering individuals helping each other to become comfortable enough in sobriety to avoid relapse.
Q. Don’t zoning laws limit where a group of unrelated individuals can rent a house?
Fortunately, the 1988 Amendments to the Federal Fair Housing Act prohibit discrimination against handicapped individuals. This prohibition requires local governments to make a reasonable accommodation in their zoning laws to enable handicap individuals to effectively deal with their disability.
Q. Are recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and those with co-occurring mental illness really handicapped?
Yes, because alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness are handicapping conditions. Oxford House, Inc. litigated the issue and in 1995 the United States Supreme Court considered the issue in City of Edmonds, WA v. Oxford House, Inc. et. al. 514 US 725 (1995). In that case the Court found that alcoholics and drug addicts were handicapped within the meaning the law and therefore a protected class requiring that local governments make a reasonable accommodation in zoning laws restricting groups of unrelated persons to live together. Since then courts have found that the same protection applies with respect to fire safety standards and rates charged property owners for property insurance coverage. In fact, Oxford Houses must be treated the same as ordinary families.
Q. How can one get into an Oxford House?
Any recovering alcoholic or drug addict can apply to get into any Oxford House by filling out an application and being interviewed by the existing members of the House. The application is then considered by the membership of the House and if there is a vacancy and if 80% of the members approve, the applicant is accepted and moves in. If an applicant does not get voted into one house he or she should try another house in the area. The Oxford House website contains an application and information about How to Apply to live in an Oxford House.
Q. What if there is no Oxford House in the area, or there are no vacancies in any Oxford House in the region?
Any group of recovering individuals can start a new Oxford House. All they need to do is to find a house to rent in the name of the group, and apply to Oxford House, Inc., for a charter. The house must be able to accommodate at least six residents. There is no charge for an Oxford House charter.
Q. What is an Oxford House Charter?
An Oxford House Charter gives a group of six or more recovering individuals the right to call itself an Oxford House™ and to use the Oxford House system of operations set forth in the Oxford House Manual©, forms and other publications. There is no charge for the charter but it has three conditions:  the group must be democratically self-run following the procedures of the Oxford House Manual©,  the group must be financially self-supporting and pay all its own bills, and  the group must immediately expel any resident who returns to using alcohol or illicit drugs. The Charter is granted on a conditional basis for the first six months to insure that a new group understands and practices the 36-year old standard system of operations. Once a group has demonstrated that it understands and practices the standard system of operations it is granted a Permanent Charter, which has the same three basic conditions – democratically self-run, self-supported and expulsion of any resident who returns to using.
Q. Is there any financial aid available to start a new Oxford House?
Yes, some states have in place a revolving loan fund that can make loans to cover the first month’s rent and security deposit (up to $4000) to rent a house in a good neighborhood. If a state has a revolving recovery home start-up loan fund, the group must repay the loan within two years in 24 installments. Check the Single State Director list at the Oxford House website: www.oxfordhouse.org under “Links/State Gov” to get a telephone number or an email address for your state’s substance abuse office and ask them if a loan fund is available. If it is not available groups can pool resources to come up with the first month’s rent on a house and security deposit or find a local source such as a church, foundation, business or treatment provider for a start-up loan. Historically, all kinds of funding sources have help to start new Oxford Houses. The first Oxford House was started because a member of AA loaned the men $750 for the first month’s rent. Repayment of the first loans in an area makes loans to start future houses possible. A good reputation builds confidence.
Q. Can an Oxford House be started without a loan from the state?
Yes, the prospective residents of the House can find a suitable house, rent it, put up the security deposit and pay the first month’s rent themselves. Oxford House, Inc. will consider favorably a Charter application whether or not a loan is received from the State or some other outside source.
Q. Can both men and women live in the same Oxford House?
No. Experience has shown that Oxford Houses work for both men and women, but not in the same house.
Q. What is the “ideal” number of individuals to assure a well-run self-run, self-supported recovery house?
Experience of Oxford House has shown that from 8 to 15 members works very well. Oxford House will not charter a house with fewer than six individuals because experience has shown that it takes at least six individuals to form an effective group.
Q. How much sobriety or clean time is needed before an individual can be accepted into an Oxford House?
There is no specific amount of sobriety needed. Generally an individual comes into an Oxford House following a 28-day rehabilitation program or at least a 5 to10-day detoxification program.
Q. What is Oxford House Inc.?
Oxford House Inc., is a non-profit, tax exempt, publicly supported corporation which acts as a umbrella organization for the national network of Oxford Houses. It provides quality control by organizing regional Houses into Chapters and by relying heavily upon the national network of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups. While Oxford House is not affiliated with AA or NA, its members realize that recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction can only be assured by the changing of their lifestyle through full participation in AA and NA. In most communities, the members of those organizations help Oxford Houses get started and report any charter compliance problems to the national office of Oxford House World Services with respect to a particular house. As soon as Oxford House Inc., hears of such problems, it takes corrective action because the good name of Oxford House is an important factor in the recovery of thousands of individuals.
Q. What is the success rate for Oxford House residents?
The “success rate” [staying clean and sober and functioning well] is very high. The National Institute of Drug Abuse [NIDA] and the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse [NIAAA] have both funded considerable research on Oxford House’s rate of success. More than 125 peer reviewed academic journal articles and four books have been published. A list of those publications is at the Oxford House website under “About Us/ Resources.” Also a number of journal articles reporting on the research are at the same website under “Publications/Evaluations/DePaul.”
Jeffrey Roth, MD, an addiction psychiatrist in Chicago, recently pointed out:
While research on AA has been limited by the role of anonymity in recovery, the willingness of the Oxford Houses to open their doors to academic research gives us an opportunity to see recovery from addiction in action.
In one study [NIDA Grant # 13231] that followed 897 residents in 219 Oxford Houses across the country for 27 months, the DePaul University research found that only 13% relapsed. [A peer-reviewed published report of that study in Addictive Behaviors 32 (2007) can be downloaded at the website under “Publications/Evaluations/DePaul].” In another study (NIAAA grant AA12218) a 150 individuals getting out of primary treatment were divided into two groups of 75 each with one group going to Oxford Houses and the other group going to normal living situations were followed for two years after treatment found that the Oxford House group did substantially better in staying clean and sober – 66% v. 33%. [American Journal of Public Health, Oct 2006; Vol. 96, pp1727–1729]
Q. Do studies show that many Oxford House residents have co-occurring mental illness?
Yes. A longitudinal study tested 897 Oxford House residents [604 men /293 women] using Addiction Severity Index and calculated the Psychiatric Severity Index [PSI] to identify residents with moderate or severe co-occurring disorders. The results showed that both those with severe and moderate PSI indications did well in staying clean and sober, avoiding hospitalization and functioning well over time. It also showed that about half of the sample tested positive on PSI with half of those having severe co-occurring disorders. [American Journal of Community Psychology 42 (2008) 143-153] In layman’s terms those taking medication for co-occurring disorders learned to take the right amount of medication at the right time to control the co-occurring disorder and to also become comfortable enough in sobriety to avoid relapse.
Q. Are there Oxford Houses set up for special populations?
There are some Oxford Houses for special populations. For example, around sixty Oxford Houses for women accept women with children. There are also houses that accept only recovering individuals who are gay or lesbian. There are also houses that accept only deaf individuals. In one study comparing deaf who lived in a house exclusive for deaf individuals and deaf individuals integrated into Oxford Houses with primarily hearing residents both cohorts did well. [See peer reviewed article OXFORD HOUSE: DEAF-AFFIRMATIVE SUPPORT FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE RECOVERY Volume 151, No. 4, 2006 American Annals of the Deaf] There are also Oxford Houses dedicated to Native Americans as well as Native Americans living in ordinary Oxford Houses. While there have been no comparative studies, those integrated into ordinary houses appear to do better than those in specialty houses. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune featured several Latino houses in Chicago. The Oxford House Manual© and related forms have been translated into Spanish. Currently there are research studies on whether Latino houses will provide equal or better outcomes than integration of Latinos into ordinary Oxford Houses.
Q. Do Oxford Houses serve veterans?
Yes. At any given time there are about 2,000 Oxford House residents who have served in the military. During the course of a year more than 4,000 veterans will live in an Oxford House. Some houses are all veterans but primarily veterans are integrated into the normal Oxford House population.
Q. How many individuals lived in an Oxford House during 2010?
During 2010, approximately 24,000 individuals lived in an Oxford House for some or part of the year. Of that number 4,332 relapsed [19%] and were expelled, while 7,668 moved out clean and sober.
Q. How many times has the average Oxford House resident been through residential treatment?
The average number of times an Oxford House resident has been through prior treatment is three, but for about a quarter of residents their Oxford House residency is after their first treatment episode.
Q. How many residents have served jail time?
78% of Oxford House residents have served jail time. The average length of jail time is about one year, with a range of few days to more than ten years. This is understandable since as many as 80% of the current jail/prison population are alcoholics and drug addicts. Oxford Houses seem to stop the recycling in and out of jail or treatment facilities.
Q. How are the current tight government budgets likely to affect Oxford House?
Since Oxford Houses are self-supported, they are the most cost-effective way to deal with recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction and co-occurring mental illness.
Q. What is needed to expand the number of Oxford Houses?
There are two expenditures required for developing statewide networks of Oxford Houses:  a small start-up revolving loan fund, and  on-site technical assistance to teach residents the Oxford House system of operations. States can use some of their federal block grant funding to establish recovery home revolving loan funds but such funds must follow the requirements of 42 USC 300x-25 – the amended recovery home provision of the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act. [42 USC 300x-25 can be download from the Oxford House website under “About Us/History”]. Block grant or other state funding can be used to contract with Oxford House, Inc. to provide trained and supervised outreach workers [field technicians] to find suitable houses to rent, recruit suitable residents and to teach those residents the system of operations. Each of the outreach workers cost Oxford House, Inc. about $80,000 a year [average salary $35,000, health insurance about $7,000, FICA $2,700 and $35,000 expenses – car, phone, supplies, lodging]. The outreach worker also helps keep existing houses on track by organizing chapters, workshops and state associations. For example, six outreach workers keep 229 Oxford Houses in Washington State on track and develop an additional 20 new houses each year.
Q. Has Oxford House gone worldwide?
Yes, there are Oxford Houses in Canada, Australia and Ghana with active interest in England, Bulgaria and other countries. Alcoholism and drug addiction are international problems and Oxford Houses can provide recovering individuals the opportunity to become comfortable enough in sobriety to avoid relapse.
Q. How do I contact Oxford House, Inc. for more information?
Oxford House World Services
1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 300
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910