By Danielle Nick
There are recovery houses across the nation, so what makes some better from others? Fred Way works at the Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences (PARR), where it is essentially his job to answer this question. Way performs thorough inspections of various recovery houses in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Way is the treasurer of the National Alliance of Recovery Residences (NARR). Through his experience, Way has become an expert in distinguishing a bad recovery house from a good, functioning house.
Way explained how certain areas of Philadelphia are “saturated” with recovery houses. While on the surface this appears to be a good thing, many of these homes are not certified and often substandard. A hugely saturated area in Philadelphia is the 19124 zip code. In this Frankford, Kensington area, there are over 70 recovery houses. In fact, City Council ruled that there can be no more recovery houses built in this area. However, Way has found that many of these houses are substandard. While explaining some of the poor conditions of these homes Way said that he has seen “10 individuals sleeping in a room that comfortably fits two.” After reviewing what constitutes a poor recovery house, Way discussed what qualifies a house as certified.
In order for a house to get certified, zoning criteria must be considered. Since the goal of a recovery house is to have many individuals reside together, recovery houses need to be zoned as multi-family. More criteria for certification is possessing a Business Privilege License, and displaying a Certificate of Occupancy. Additionally, there are written house rules and drug and alcohol screening policies in certified houses.Way emphasized the importance of screening the individuals who live in the houses. In short, one bad seed could disrupt the whole house’s environment. “The house mix is very important,” Way said. A particularly important individual in a recovery house is the house manager. The house manager oversees the house and the individuals. According to Way, the house manager is a crucial position. “A bad house manager equals a bad house; a good house manager equals a good house,” Way said.
All in all, Way reminded our class that though there are many recovery houses, they are not all perfect. “There are not enough good houses, but there are enough beds,” Way said.