Reputation and Discrimination

Although recovery residences have helped countless individuals initiate and learn to sustain long-term recovery and saved taxpayers countless dollars, the marketplace can face negative perceptions and bias.



Individuals can hold a negative perception of recovery residences due to:

  • Prevalence of “bad players” – As with most industries, a majority of recovery residences operate legally and ethically; however, some providers engage in exploitive, negligent, or corrupt practices. Providers who open and operate recovery residences without fully understanding best practices can unwittingly become a “bad player.” Their priorities might become misaligned, or their ego might get in the way. Others knowingly engage in these practices, which casts a negative light across the entire industry. This was a driving reason why the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) developed codes of ethics, standards, and a certification program.
  • Philosophical differences – Recovery residences can also receive harsh criticism from individuals who hold viewpoints that do not align. For example, some believe that relapse rates mean that abstinence is not a reasonable expectation and that abstinence requirements set people up for failure. Others believe that shared living environments can lead to overcrowding and segregation of marginalized communities. These assumptions lead individuals to support other types of housing models and oppose recovery housing. The truth is that different people need different options because they have different needs and different levels of recovery capital that evolve.



Discrimination is a significant barrier to recovery residences. A global study revealed that Illicit drug use is the most stigmatized health condition and alcohol use disorder is the fourth most stigmatized health condition globally (Shrivastava 2012). From a recovery residence perspective, this translated into Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) political pressure that raises barriers to recovery residences being sited in residential neighborhoods. These barriers may violate federal fair housing laws because persons in recovery meet the civil rights definition of “disabled,” which is a “protected class.”


Despite numerous Supreme Court decisions upholding the rights of persons in recovery to choose a recovery residence, many state and local governments continue to pressure providers into costly legal battles and out of neighborhoods.


Recovery residences should develop a “What to do if you get a NIMBY knock on the door?” plan for residents, staff, and owner/operators. They should also proactively network with local and state recovery advocacy groups and civil and housing rights advocacy organizations.



  • MA Recovery Housing