The Silent Partner 

 December 15, 2020

By  Alan Oviatt

The Setting is the Service

“The setting is the service” says it all when it comes to the importance of the social-physical atmosphere for people recovering from alcohol and drug problems. The architecture, both inside and out of the residential recovery settings is an important silent partner.

Recovery from addiction is typically a long-term process that requires ongoing support. For those that need more social support and residential accommodation in an abstinent living environment, Access Foundation provides safe housing for daily living based on their proprietary Stable Environment approach to recovery that emphasizes peer support, community engagement, and a solid work ethic

Our business model for supported housing is identified as housing in the community (as a community-based provider) in which treatment is NOT a part of the housing eligibility process AND treatment is not required to maintain housing. Stable Environment housing is intended for people who need support services to live successfully in the community. 

The model views housing and mental health services as separate needs and are not bundled together. Rather, they are provided in partnership with each other. Mental health and substance abuse services are based on an individual’s needs and desires. Clients have a central role in the planning process. It is vital to separate landlord and property management functions from the service delivery roles. Housing planning is closely linked to the supports that people need for recovery.

Community Treatment
  • Peer supported – social engagement. 
  • Community-based treatment.
  • Financial responsibility training.
  • Leadership and Management training.
  • Social-emotional skill development.
  • Career pathway with education and job placement.

Access Foundation takes the architecture partnership very seriously ensuring that each house meets the following six considerations:


Access Foundation residences are an integral part of the community’s stock of family housing, and are located in comfortable, conventional residential neighborhoods that have minimal crime and are free of competing non-residential uses. Easy access by car/public transportation to shopping, work, recreation and social/health services are primary considerations.


Our residences tend to fit in rather than stand out. The houses appear average and have a design typical of other houses in the neighborhood. Also important is that the our residences are fully visible from the street (not behind a fence or other barrier), and have easily approachable front doors. The aim is to convey the sense of being neighborly rather than reclusive, and to set the stage for cordial relations with our neighbors.

Design for sociability

Our open approach to design in which kitchen-dining-social spaces flow into each other free of corridors and other barriers encourages high levels of socializing. Frequent informal contacts promote recovery and healthy interactions among our residents.

Design to avoid isolation

Effective socializing thrives on relationships between secure and healthy individuals. Our residents typically share rooms to avoid isolating in ways that could be destructive to recovery. House Presidents are residents that are further along in recovery and have earned accommodations for a private room.

Facility oversight & security

Physical design for easy oversight of the premises and for personal security is vital to keep alcohol/drugs from entering the facility and to maintain a recovery-conducive social environment in which problems and upsets are spotted early and dealt with immediately; design for security focuses on open social connections, not on physical barriers that separate and seclude.

Care and upkeep

High levels of physical maintenance, house-cleaning and household upkeep are vital to gain neighborhood respect and to counteract NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) fears.

About the author

Alan has an MBA and is the co-founder of Access Foundation. He has been a content writer for the recovery industry for the past eight years.

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