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New Bill Ends California’s Ban on Funding For Drug Free Recovery Housing

Matt Haney’s AB 2479 will allow up to 25% of Housing First state funding to be directed towards recovery housing that requires residents to be sober

For immediate release:
  • Nate Allbee
  • (415) 756-0561

SACRAMENTO, CA – Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) has introduced legislation that will create sober, drug free recovery housing across the state. The bill allows up to 25% of state housing funds to be allocated towards drug free housing, which will give individuals a choice between living in sober living or housing that doesn’t require sobriety.

In 2016, California passed Housing First, which ensured that all homelessness policy is focused on getting people into housing without any requirements on credit, income, criminal background or sobriety. This led to the creation of harm reduction focused supportive housing that permits some drug use on their premises, and a prohibition of state funding for sober housing.

In 2022, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) modified their Housing First guidelines to include drug free recovery housing as a component of Housing First. California law hasn’t been updated to reflect these guidelines. As a result, drug free recovery housing is still unable to receive state funding, despite it being a widely proven and critical tool in confronting addiction.

“With the deadly, devastating impact of fentanyl, our goal must always be to help people get off of and away from deadly illegal drugs,” said Assemblymember Haney, Chair of the Select Committee on Fentanyl, Opioid Addiction and Overdose Prevention. “We have to support people who are ready to take the next step in that journey of recovery, as part of a drug free residential recovery community, and make sure those opportunities are available.”

“I’ve been sober for 16 months, but I can’t find any available drug free housing that can give me the programming and support I need to continue being sober,” said Joshua Brathwaite, a San Francisco based recovery advocate. “I’m in danger of relapsing and falling back into a cycle I fought so hard to get out of.”

The lack of options forces people to live in housing that isn’t best suited for their individual sobriety journey – and it can put them at a higher risk of overdose and falling back into homelessness. In San Francisco 68% of overdoses in the last year happened at a fixed address, many of which were harm reduction facilities.

“Many people seeking recovery don't want to live next to others who are still using drugs, and they shouldn't be forced to. These drug free recovery models allow for a community of people who are all on a journey to be fully sober to help keep each other accountable and make sure that they have the support needed to not fall back into drug use or homelessness,” said Haney.

Drug free housing doesn’t allow any of the tenants to use substances while living there. This allows a community of people who are all ready to be fully sober to help keep each other accountable and make sure that they have the support needed to not fall back into homelessness.

“Homelessness and drug use have combined into a Category 5 public health tragedy” said Jim Wunderman, President & CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Recovery Housing projects are currently prohibited by state law from receiving state support. The result is that homeless Californians suffering from addiction but who are ready for recovery are forced to choose between life on the streets and housing where drug use is commonplace. That’s not right. AB 2479 will bring California into compliance with federal best practices by making sure Recovery Housing is an option for those who need it. We thank Assemblymember Haney for his leadership and commitment to solving this difficult challenge.”

“On behalf of the Salvation Army Golden State Division we are excited to support Assemblymember Haney and AB 2479,” said Destiny Pletch, Deputy Director of The Salvation Army’s The Way Out. “This bill enlarges the solution space by providing housing options for people struggling with addiction and homelessness that help them thrive.”

AB 2479 ensures that California continues its focus on harm reduction methods of responding to the homelessness crisis by allowing only up to 25% of state funding to go towards drug free housing. This allows people who are ready to be sober to live in appropriate housing that prevents them from falling back into homelessness. AB 2479 also ensures that if individuals relapse while living in drug free housing they don’t automatically get evicted. Instead, residents are supported with detoxification programs and intensive peer to peer support to resume recovery.

This bill will be heard in the Assembly Housing Committee on April 24th.