Sober living facilities remain loosely regulated

A column which ran in the Valley News last July 8 dealt with the issue of sober living homes and generated some interesting reader comments. (Check out the Armchair Activist archive at

A follow-up seems in order, as important legislation has been considered since that article ran.

Currently, California law treats sober-living homes of six or fewer residents like single-family homes. They do not need a license as long as they do not provide counseling and detoxification services.

SB 992 (Sen. Wiggins) sought to create a category of licensed facilities known as Adult Recovery Maintenance Facilities.

Currently, these facilities (sober living homes) are not subject to any state requirements. SB 992 sought to impose regulatory structure through licensing.

There is much debate between groups that would have sober living homes be regulated and those who would allow the current situation to continue.

The Sober Living Network/Coalition (SLNC) of Los Angeles supported Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision to veto the bill last fall.

But some organizations, including the rival Sober Living Homes Association, believe that the homes used by the SLNC are operated by unscrupulous persons who skirt local ordinances regarding the number of residents allowed in a dwelling, collect much more money than is required to operate the facility and have little control or interest over what happens in the homes.

SB 992 would have addressed those alleged abuses. Approved by the legislature last summer, Sen. Patricia Wiggins’ (D-Santa Rosa) bill would have required the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs to license Adult Recovery Maintenance Facilities (ARMFs) and apply licensure requirements to sober living homes.

The Wiggins bill would have:

• Defined ARMFs as any facility whose rules, peer-led groups, staff activities or other structured operations are directed toward maintenance of sobriety for adults in early recovery from substance abuse.

• Prohibited (beginning Jan. 1, 2011) state or local agencies from referring any person to an alcohol or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility that is not licensed.

In short, SB 992 would have required sober living homes of any size to strictly adhere to standards set by the state and would have limited the ability of those who are in the business to make a profit while providing little in the way of professional care for residents.

In a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger lamenting his decision to veto SB 992, the group says that the SLNC houses addicts in conditions not conducive to recovery and is profit-, not recovery-, oriented.

Dave Reynolds is a political consultant/writer currently residing in Menifee. During the 1990s he served as chief of staff to the State Assembly Representative from the 66th District.

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13 Responses to "Sober living facilities remain loosely regulated"

  1. someone   March 3, 2009 at 11:11 am

    there are a few sober living homes whose rules and regulations are compromised and are all about profit, i lived in a sober living home or 2 and there were some that were useless and there were some that were okay. i know what i needed when i went there and some didnt provide the help i needed, i am very determined to find what i need and i know how to ask for help. i lived in this one place and i thought it was cool until they changed the rent on me and suckered me into a bible study, they said we had a mandatory house meeting, so i rushed home from work and they pulled out the bible on me, well thats cool for some people, i read the bible but do not depend on it for my recovery, i read the bible for educational purpose, i am not a hardcore NA or AA person, but i do occasionally go, but they didnt even offer that once a month, the whole 3 months i was there i didnt go to any meetings in the house. when i got there i had just had a baby and i didnt have any money or a job, and they didnt even tell me where i could go look for food, or they didnt give me any resources to help me and my newborn baby, it was frustrating, but like i said i am very determined to find what i need. im still sober today and have a beautiful healthy little girl. im in college right now and want to go into social work so i can help open a few sober living homes on my rezervation. alot of people come out of prison or treatment and do not have anywhere to go that is a healthy enviroment, and i beleive i can benefit those people being where i’ve been.

  2. Dave Reynolds   March 3, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Someone, it is the aim of this column to bring out stories like yours. Obviously you had a mixed reaction to your experience in sober living homes. If you are interested in telling more of your story to maybe help other people in similar situations avoid the bad things you went through let me know by posting your comments here. Let me know, and good luck on your recovery.

  3. Diana B   February 10, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Some sober livings are no good and I wouldnt even send my dog there,however there is some really wonderful homes, the one I went to changed my life, it was structured, there was recovery there, they helped me to grow up and become a productive member of society, an honest person, a working person, they taught us how to be ladies and live life without the use of drugs. I am forever grateful to those people, I now have 10 years clean and sober and graduated from college and have been at the same job almost 7 years, I could not have did it without them, I was a complete mess. Yes some places are for profit,but there is several that actually help people and I was one of the hopeless dopefienes they helped. I will be graduating from college again in 3 months and I owe alot to this house. So take a look at the recovery rates instead of focusing only on the ones that it did not work for and give it a chance, visit some of these places and see for yourselves, you will see the bad ones and you will see the good ones. Someone like me should of never made it, however, I am making it… And it all started at a soberliving.

  4. sonoma county   February 19, 2010 at 7:38 am

    I believe that all these SLNC houses must be highly regulated,as well as regular weekly check ups of each house. I know of four houses that the people running these homes are still slamming dope,drinking,abusing prescription narcotics,and having young girls over for sexual gratification. they steal peoples social security and these people end up using and getting kicked out and left broke and abandoned. This has happened to a person in particular and he had to be resusitated bedause he had been played one to many times. This house put this man on the street and called an ambulance and told them they found him laying out side,they denied he lived there.This is unacceptable period!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM OUTRAGED AND WILL WORK TO CHANGE THIS PRACTICE. THESE PEOPLE SHOULD BE CHARGED WITH ENDANGERMENT AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND SHOULD BE JAILED!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ARE SOCIETY????!!

  5. D Reynolds   February 24, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I will continue to look at this practice and get back to the readers who are interested. I understand that there are varying levels of professionalism and integrity associated with these establishments, and I will report what I observe, be it positive or negative, as concerns these practices.

  6. Steve M   May 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    There are licensed sober living environments in Sonoma County,
    State of California states that one of the descriptions of what constitutes a family is unrelated adults voluntarialy living together, therefore local governments who seek litigation on occupancy ordinances will lose their case if properly represented. responsible persons will not house more than 2 persons per room. While admittedly many SLE’s are unethical and possibly criminal, A few are accountable to the State and Local governments. The bad ones tend to be run by persons straight out of prison or treatment centers and usually have extensive criminal backgrounds. The ones that work with Parole, Probation, and the Courts have an open door policy with the before mentioned entities. Ask for proof that an SLE has such a policy. If not stay away from that SLE.

  7. GUEST   May 17, 2010 at 11:52 am

    A good sober living home should have "structure" all through the day, starting with a mandatory group wake up prayer and daily readings from the One Day At A Time books, just 10 minutes worth but they’re critical for the recovering addict. A meeting a day for the first 30 days, AA/NA, curfews, daily household chore assignments, and weekly group outings and house meetings are important too. Every SL house needs a full time sober and resourceful manager with a locked cabinet for medications and a van to help with transportation issues. The goal is to help the recovering person make the transition to "living" and "loving" a sober life…one day at a time.

  8. MS.T   August 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I am very unhappy to have to live next door to a sober living home where some ignorant neighbors who wanted to sell there house could not and make a large profit they decided to make it a sober living home he exclaimed he needed the money not because he had and interest in helping people with recovery or getting their lives back on track I do not like it because I am a widow living alone and I am not promised that these people will not relapse and start stealing or creating havoc what ever the case may be I want to shut them down

  9. Keygrip   July 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    i am 5 years sober and spent a good portion of that in sober living they are ALL CROOKS and LIARS it is strictly for profit they make you sign contracts that have things that by Cal.State housing laws and Consumer Affairs are ILLEGAL i have yet to see or find one that can be trusted or should be allowed to operate the break NUMEROUS laws and EXPLOIT there tenants to make a buck the state should regulate them if that happened 90% of them would be shut down

  10. Betty M   April 29, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    I lived in a terrific sl house.well at first.the first 8 months then I moved out. the new place they started using. I was allowed to go back to the sl house. things had changed. after a month the house was full there were 4 bedrooms .instead of 2 people to a room there was 3 in one room 4 in another room. 5 in another room. they put me in with a man. our room was suppose to be a dining room. we had a metal clothing rack for our cloths no dressers. Needless to say I moved as soon as I coild..The man who ran it did have 4 sl homes he relapsed and lost them all. The first one he had wad perfect.

  11. someone   May 7, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    There is a so called ” sober living house on 371 Maple in Cotati Ca being run b by a money mongering tight wad named Brian Weinmann. He has a five bedroom home and has cramed ten people into the house wuth the intent of renting out a small 10 by 10 room in the garage to four more would be suckers. There is no structure here,he is simply a control freak and is most likely bi-polar. The house is exceptional nice estheticaly and he never lets you forget it.He charges a deposit of 300 that he says he will forfeit if you relapse,thing of it is he takes the 300 whether you relapse or not. Ive yet to see him return a single persons deposit yet!! He is clearing ovet 9000 dollars a month at times. He has no onsite house manager and refuses to give anyone a keybto the front or back door. There is also no mailbox here which I thought was very odd. He knows the law however and knows what he can get away with. The only structure hete is a stupid curfew,and a sign out sheet. There is a chore chart that no one really follows. He holds a pitiful excuse for a house “meeting” once a week, or whenever he gets a wild hair up his keester. In these”meetings”he mostly just goes discord amongst the residents by way of controling whats being said and availing himself of manipulative word play. There have been several thefts and he has failed miserably at addressing this issue in any kind of effective manner. Its quite clear that Brian Kenneth Weinmann cares onky about the amount of money that he and his partner in crime, a man named A.J.,can derive from this unfortunate reality.

  12. Sherry Rankins   May 3, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Sober livings as of today, do they require a license or a certificate of occupancy

  13. Bobbie   September 19, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    This is my opinion of a sober living environment in Petaluma for women. currently these types of facilities sober living homes are not subject to any state requirements to improve regulatory structure through licensing there is much debate between groups that would have sober living homes be regulated and those who would allow the current situation to continue the sober living network coalition of Los Angeles supported Governor Schwarzenegger decision to veto the bill last fall but some organizations including the rival sober living home association believes that the home is used by the SLNC and are operated by unscrupulous persons who skirt local ordinance regarding the number of residents allowed in a dwelling collect far more money than is required to operate the facility and have little control or interest over what happens in the house or you. It’s a very sad shocking degrading hopeless feeling when you are going through such a hard time as it is and then a person you think that-would be there for you is not at all. she was incredibly hurtful and mean and there was no reason for it. She would constantly change her mind and put words into my mouth and she knew I was under quite a bit of stress and still would not answer my questions but yet tell me that I am crazy or that I am spinning. Leave me hanging and guessing as to what was going on or what she had decided it almost seemed like she had pleasure in it it was quite disgusting when I told her I was not ready to move in but I was willing and ready to move in on the first she would not let me and she would give me no reason for her decision I know that you are supposed to dry out before you go in and she told me that when I first met her that I needed to slow down and dry out because she did not want to take care of me if I were to have a seizure so when I told her and was being completely honest with her that I was not ready. she didn’t care she didn’t care at all. Why she could not wait 15 or 16 days to receive the money I didn’t understand and why would she want me to move in if I’m not ready and when I told her that I would give her the entire amount that is when she agreed to move me in but not not on the first I had to do it right then and there so again please beware. I’m sure you’ll figure out who she is if you do your research. and do me a favor please don’t let her do any treat you as if you are nothing And someone she can control And take advantage of. We are human beings and we all have our flaws and we make our mistakes and when we call out to someone for help especially someone in AA and someone who is running a sober living house you hope and need that person to be there. Not the opposite of feeling displaced alone anxious uncared for belittled. so know who You are dealing with know your worth and do not involve yourself with this person. And I hope that you do find someplace that will make you feel at ease at peace comfortable cared for and you are happy God bless .


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