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Report: Homes for Indigent Addicts Have Poor Conditions, Unsavory Ties to Drug Clinics

A new study finds that New York’s three-quarter houses are dangerous and unsanitary and residents say they are compelled to use drug clinics that pay kickbacks to landlords.


Beds in closets. Vermin infestations. Drug-dealing house managers. Fire hazards hidden from building inspectors.

These are just some of the conditions turned up by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice during a year-long examination of New York City's shadowy network of residences for indigent addicts and alcoholics.

John Jay's report on these so-called "sober" homes paints a picture of an unsafe and unregulated housing system for which no government agency wants to take ownership, leaving tenants at landlords' mercy.

Beyond being subjected to dangerous and unsanitary living conditions, many residents of sober homes, also known in New York as "three-quarter houses," told John Jay's team they were required to attend specific outpatient drug treatment programs or face eviction. These programs, some of dubious quality, allegedly pay home operators fees for referring patients for services from Medicaid and other government programs. Such referrals are illegal under federal and state law.

Residents are often former prisoners or recent patients of residential drug treatment programs. Most are unemployed and receive Medicaid.

"Many of the houses have ongoing relationships with particular [state]-licensed substance abuse treatment programs, and evidence suggests that these programs may be paying the houses kickbacks for referrals of clients," the John Jay report says.

The report's conclusions echo those in