How to open a halfway house

Starting a halfway house is no small undertaking, but with careful planning and good support you can bring your vision of helping others into reality. Narrow your focus and decide who your halfway house will serve; you will be more effective in the long run.

Decide what type of halfway house you will run: 1) A halfway house serving those recently released from prison or jail, to help them begin rebuilding their lives as part of society. 2) A halfway house serving those overcoming addictions, to provide a structured place for them to live as they adjust to their new lives. 3) A halfway house serving those with mental problems, to give them some freedom but provide a safe place to stay. 4) A halfway house serving youth, including child abuse victims, orphans, and runaways.

Look into the regulations of the area in which you want to establish your halfway house. You may find that you need special licensing to operate a halfway house. The best way to determine what you need to do is to talk to the local government officials.

Find a location for your halfway house. You need adequate space for the number of people you wish to serve, which means places for them to sleep and eat as well as adequate rest room facilities, storage, administrative areas and kitchen space, if desired.

Draw up a plan for how your halfway house will operate. You need to know how many residents your halfway house can hold; this will be largely determined by the space you obtain. You also need specific rules for both the residents and the staff and volunteers.

Talk to people involved in running other halfway houses for advice and suggestions. Make appointments, go visit, volunteer, and spend time so that you can learn how it works day to day, as well as to get an idea of common problems encountered.

Get support. You will need both money and manpower to get your halfway house going. Let people know what you are doing. You may be able to find a non-profit organisation, or several, to help fund the halfway house. Alternately, you can set up your own non-profit organisation and receive donations through it. Meet with leaders from local charities and churches to see what they can do; they may be able to provide money, supplies or people to help get the work done. Make a list of what you need from volunteers so that you know what to tell people when they ask, "What can I do to help?"

Get committed people to staff the halfway house. Use your plan to determine how many staff members you need and what their respective jobs will be.

Let your local newspapers know what you are doing, how the public can help and when you expect to open your doors.

Hold an opening ceremony. Invite the local government officials, the public and any people who have helped you in the process. Set up a place where you can gather contact information to keep those who are interested involved in what you're doing.

Make contact with the people from your list on a regular basis, either through an e-mail update or a printed newsletter. Let them know how things are going, the successes you've had, the problems you've encountered and what you need to keep going. Those contacts can be a source of regular donations and volunteer time that can help your halfway house thrive.

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