Oxford Houses are wonderful alternatives to traditional residential treatment facilities or halfway houses. Created in 1975, with the first Oxford House located in Silver Spring, Maryland, this nonprofit organization has grown to over 2,000 houses in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Oxford House is a democratically run house with no ties to the treatment community but with a communal desire to remain clean and sober in a safe, drug-free recovery home.
Oxford Houses are a unique way for people with a shared desire to remain sober to live together while learning how to successfully maintain a home by promoting self-efficacy and responsibility. Oxford homes are run autonomously and in a democratic fashion. There need to be at least six residents in the house, but typically an Oxford House will never go above 15 residents. If you are interested in living in an Oxford home, you would fill out an application, and the existing residents of the home will conduct an interview and ultimately decide if you are a good fit.
As with anything else in the house, the decision of whether or not you will be accepted for residency will be put to a vote. The vote must carry at least an 80% acceptance rate in order for the motion to be carried and for the potential resident to be allowed into the home. If, for some reason, the vote to allow for the potential applicant to reside in the home does not pass, the applicant is certainly welcome to try another house in the area. A helpful website offers a search tool that allows people to find Oxford House vacancies anywhere in America.
There is no time limit for how long a person can stay in an Oxford home as long as the rules are being followed, but typically residents stay for about a year. Of course, your length of stay may vary depending on your personal circumstances.
There are also Oxford House chapters made up from several nearby locations. For a chapter to be created, there must be at least three homes within a 100-mile radius of one another. Once a chapter is created, the President of each home will serve as its representative at the chapter meetings.
Oxford Houses are surprisingly cost-effective as they are not tied to a treatment center. The only financial commitment that is required to live in an Oxford home is the ability to pay all the bills that the household requires. A person will be expected to pay their fair share of the rent, cable, utilities, telephone, and any other communal expenses that may be required. Also, it is important to remember that this cost can change from month to month depending on how many people are residing in the home. For example, if there are seven people in the home, each would have a responsibility to pay 1/7 of all the bills. If there are ten people in the home, then each resident’s individual financial responsibility would become 1/10 of all the bills. The more residents are in the home, the less each person’s cost will be.
This is very helpful for people who are starting off in recovery, as it allows each person to learn how to budget money responsibly and also builds a sense of self-worth through being able to adequately pay for monthly bills. Since there are usually many roommates, the cost is fairly economical, and on average a person can be expected to pay between $400 and $500 a month depending upon their location. If you are trying to figure out exactly how much it might cost to live in one of the available homes, this viability calculator can help.
Who Is Eligible to Apply
The only requirement necessary to be considered for an opportunity to live within an Oxford home is the desire to be in recovery and the ability to pay the bills.
Because recovery is hard, especially when just starting out, co-ed Oxford homes are not an option, as it can create unnecessary and complex situations that can be dangerous for sobriety. There are Oxford homes for men, Oxford homes for women, and Oxford homes for women with children. Oxford homes for men and women are run virtually the same way, but individual locations can certainly have variations, as all homes are run in a way that is best for them. There are some extra rules if a woman is living in a home that allows children.
Some of these rules include:
- No more than two children with one resident
- There is an extra $20 charge for each child
- The child will share a room with their parent
- The child must be 16 or under
- No significant others are allowed to stay overnight
- There should be no sexual activity when the children are present
Even though the houses are run on their own without outside help, there are still some basic rules that must be adhered to across all Oxford homes. These rules are what bind all houses together under the Oxford House umbrella. These rules are called traditions, and they represent the guiding principles centered around the belief that people living within the home will be able to have a successful recovery by building self-confidence through responsibility. The traditions are:
- The purpose of the Oxford House is to provide support for the alcoholics and drug addicts who wants to stop drinking or using and stay stopped.
- Officers of the Oxford House are expected to run the house in a democratic fashion.
- No Oxford House member will ever be asked to leave without good reason, and there will be a dismissal vote.
- Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are not affiliated with the Oxford House, but the Oxford House understands the value of these programs.
- Oxford Houses operate autonomously.
- Oxford Houses are financially self-supporting.
- Oxford Houses are not treatment facilities.
- One does not promote an Oxford House but rather uses it as an opportunity for public education.
- Members leaving Oxford House is in good standing are encouraged to mentor newer members.
Another way for people to learn responsibility and help gain confidence is by the appointment of officer positions. These positions are required for every Oxford House, and the appointment of these positions lasts for six months. All residents are welcome to be elected more than once, however, they cannot serve back-to-back terms. Because Oxford homes are autonomous, they are free to have as many additional positions as they would like, but under the guidelines of the organization there must be at least these six roles:
- President — as can be expected from the title, this role plays a very large part in the running of the Oxford home. This is a leadership position that includes overseeing the successful completion of tasks from other positions. This person also serves as the representative for chapter meetings.
- Treasurer — the treasurer is responsible for all things financial within the Oxford House. They write checks for approved expenditures, understand the comptroller’s position, conduct monthly audits, and create weekly financial reports.
- Secretary — duties for the secretary include attending to all administrative needs such as managing the house e-mail account, completing the house report, organization of all house paperwork, getting new residents acclimated, and making sure their paperwork is correctly filled out and filed.
- Comptroller — the comptroller is responsible for making sure residents are up to date with their financial balances. This officer also keeps track of when residents are entering and vacating the home. The comptroller is also responsible for mailing bills and working closely with the treasurer and president to create a monthly audit report.
- Coordinator — a coordinator makes sure the house is running smoothly on a day-to-day basis. This could be accomplished with a visual inspection of common grounds and spot checks of individual rooms. Additionally, this officer keeps the house stocked with essential and communal items.
- Housing Service Committee Representative — this officer serves as a source of information within the greater community for the Oxford House. This may be done with the distribution of flyers or through other means. This person will also troubleshoot any problems that arise within the house.
With each Oxford House running democratically and autonomously, rules from house to house will vary. It is possible that they may even change from time to time as older residents move out and newer residents move in. Overall, the rules are meant to represent what is appropriate and what is agreed to for the members residing in the house. There are, however, three rules that every Oxford House must adhere to, as they are the very basic requirements of what will make an Oxford home successful:
- Each and every resident must remain drug-free. If this cannot happen, that person will be removed from the home.
- Each house must support itself financially.
- Every house understands, respects, and adheres to the democratic process regarding house rules.
When a person is entering the home, it is important to make sure they agree with the house rules. If for some reason it seems like some of the rules may be a problem for them, it might be in that person’s best interest to find a new home.
Fines can be imposed on Oxford House residents if they do not adhere to the rules they agreed upon and signed up for when entering the home. If rules are broken, fines are assessed, and the fined residents will be expected to pay their fines along with their monthly bills. If fines get to be excessive, or if a person seems to not be fitting in well with the house due to constant disruption, they can be removed from the home with an 80% majority vote.
Dismissal from the Home
There are several ways in which a person can be dismissed from the home. This again will require an 80% majority vote, however, it would be rare for a person to be allowed to stay if they did not adhere to these three rules:
- Relapse of substances or alcohol
- Inability to pay rent or fines
- Exhibiting disruptive or violent behavior
Oxford Houses typically tried to find homes that are considered to be in “good areas.” This term is naturally subjective, however, the idea behind it is that Oxford homes give people the ability to remove themselves from places that may have been a trouble source or a trigger. It can be difficult to try and remain sober when a person is required to live in the same area where they used to purchase alcohol or other substances. Additionally, living in a house in a good area fosters and promotes civic responsibility and pro-social behavior. These things will help residents become more self-sufficient, and will foster their ability to easily transition into a stable living environment when and if they choose to leave the Oxford home.
Something that is important to look at when considering an Oxford home is addressing any underlying mental health concerns. An Oxford home is wonderful for people who are in recovery, but many individuals who enter recovery, especially those who are new to it, might find themselves struggling with mental health concerns. Between 54% and 87% of people who struggle with alcohol or substance abuse also have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Often there is a pattern connecting undiagnosed mental health concerns and substance usage. In many cases, substance abuse is done as a way to self-medicate, because people are unaware that their underlying mental health condition is causing the discomfort.
If there are any suspicions of underlying mental health conditions or concerns, an evaluation from a mental health professional will be able to help identify and, if necessary, treat the mental health diagnosis either through psychotherapeutic interventions or through physiological interventions such as medication.
Oxford homes are a wonderful cost-effective way to join a community of like-minded people in recovery. That said, there are times when support groups can be extremely beneficial. If you are thinking that it might be time to look into finding a group that would fit your needs feel free to look here.