Illinois sober homes cheaper than prisons for drug addicts

There is a growing heroin epidemic all around us. For addicts a sober home can be the final step of a road to recovery. In Illinois sober homes can be licensed by the state, but many are not.

“I was incarcerated for narcotics, so I went to a program for outpatient and I succeeded and I've been here ever since,” said George Wilson a recovering drug addict and now resident at Henry’s Sober Living House on the Chicago’s south side.

That facility is owned by Henry McGhee, Jr., a recovering drug addict himself and former narcotics police officer. Sixteen years clean, McGhee owns 4 recovery centers and has helped 8,000 people.

“Just to see a few success stories, people change the lives around people reunited with their families, it makes is all worth it,” said McGhee.

His facility carries strict rules, including an 11pm curfew, mandatory meetings and all residents must buy groceries – and bring back a receipt.

McGhee said they don’t tolerate drug users.

“If you get people in an apartment to stay clean and sober then the next person who comes in he will either fall in line or he will fall out,” said McGhee. “If he doesn't go along with what’s going on with the program the people in the apartment will force him out.”

Still, there are serious concerns about sober homes.  When McGhee bought a building he had to allay the fears of neighbors, Wilson helped calm those fears.

“We showed them how we are living because they thought we were child molesters and stuff like that,” said Wilson who explained that violent offenders are not welcome.

Henry’s is a state licensed recovery home, but not all are.

Pam Rodriguez is with Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities. They help people transfer from the justice system to treatment. She says some centers are more about profit than care.

“If you visit them and walk into them you get a very quick sense if this is a quality program focused on good care for clients,” said Rodriguez.

“You can get out of prison and keep doing the same thing you are doing, but this program here a lot of guys come out they don't have nothing,” said Wilson.

When it comes to the price tag - placing recovering addicts in a place where they can be cared for is actually cheaper than keeping them behind bars.

It costs the state of Illinois 48 dollars a day to house an offender in a sober home compared to about 64 dollars a day in prison.