How did a felon with a history of violence, theft, and drug dealing, get into the business of housing recovering addicts? Easy, says the Tampa Bay Times. Almost anyone can open a halfway house in Florida because there’s almost no regulation or accountability. Every day, hundreds of people emerge from jails, detox centers ,and mental hospitals desperate for a place to stay while they try to remake their lives. Most can’t afford a square meal, let alone first and last month’s rent and a damage deposit.
Many wind up in transitional houses — often called halfway houses or sober living houses — that give them a bed and promise to help them find jobs and get to 12-step meetings.The Times examined dozens of halfway house programs. Among them are large, professionally managed facilities that generally deliver what they promise. Many others are little more than flophouses that cram residents two or three to a room in dingy quarters with no job assistance, no trained staff. and no support. Several houses are run by felons with serious criminal records, including robbery, sexual assault, and drug trafficking. One operator was permanently barred from a federal housing program because of improper billing, yet started a new halfway house that is getting thousands of dollars from the same program.