Dry houses in Bristol – what are they and why are they needed?

Ara provides dry houses in Bristol along with The Junction Project and Bristol City Council

You may have heard the term “dry house” and wondered what it means, who lives there, and why. Firstly, in recent times the term dry house has fallen out of favour for various reasons. It connotes a “halfway-house” image, where people languish in a halfway state between active addiction and recovery, most likely without much support or input for their condition. However, there is so, so much more to our recovery accommodation than that. Read on to find out why we have moved on from the term “dry house” in our Bristol housing support services

What is a dry house?

Wikipedia defines dry houses as:

“an institute for people with criminal backgrounds or substance use disorder problems to learn (or relearn) the necessary skills to re-integrate into society and better support and care for themselves.”

Part of this definition does resonate with Ara’s housing service – we certainly help people to re-integrate and care for themselves. However, the use of the words “institute” and “criminal” conjures some quite negative connotations. These stigmatising associations may put some people off from ever exploring the idea of seeking help. Language makes a big impact in the fields of mental health and substance misuse; it can be the difference between someone relating to a service or excluding himself or herself for life. This is why we have moved away from the term “dry house” when talking about the services we provide. It is simply not the right terminology and does not encompass all that we do.

What does Ara do that’s beyond the “dry house” label?

Our supported housing in Bristol helps people in the early stages of recovery from drugs and alcohol to get back on their feet. Our safe, secure, shared accommodation ensures that people have the support they need to control their use of alcohol and drugs. Whether becoming 100% abstinent is the goal or not, we are here to help people on their recovery journey.

There are no hostel-style bunkhouses or dormitory settings at Ara. Instead, our accommodation is as close to a normal home environment as possible. We offer various stages of housing for people at different stages in their recovery, so that no one is at odds with their housemates. Some of our houses allow off-site alcohol and cannabis usage, provided it is not completely uncontrolled. At the later stages, no alcohol or drug usage is permitted whatsoever. You can find out more about the different stages of our accommodation here.

Well-kept dry houses in Bristol
What you can expect from Ara’s Pathway 4 (substance misuse) service

Our substance misuse housing provides a diverse pathway with safe accommodation to support your recovery to independence. In conjunction with our  partners, Bristol City Council, The Junction Project and The Salvation Army Bridge programme, we provide a range of accommodation for people working on their recovery from substance misuse issues. A summary of what we provide includes:

  • High quality accommodation situated in Bristol, with well-decorated modern bedrooms, living areas, and kitchens. Many of our houses also have outdoor areas and gardens.
  • Large TV, fully equipped kitchen, Wi-Fi connection in every house
  • Fresh, unused bedding provided
  • Weekly FareShare food deliveries in our prep intake houses
  • House meetings, recovery groups, and weekly one-to-ones with a qualified support worker
  • Weekend support and after hours on-call support
  • Support to access ROADs services in Bristol, benefits, employment, training, and more
  • Move on self-contained accommodation, as well as shared two-person flats

Support worker session at our Bristol dry house

What is the difference between dry houses and rehab?

As previously mentioned, we do not consider Ara’s housing service as simply “dry houses”. Nevertheless, we do provide a great alternative or addition to rehab. You will have far more freedom in Ara housing than you would in a rehab facility, but there are a few similarities. For example, you’ll be encouraged to access support services including counselling, day programs, mutual aid groups, and peer support.

Our support workers will require you to attend our in-house recovery groups if there are signs that you need some extra help. Regular (weekly) one-to-one sessions with your support worker will help you to engage with your community, continue your abstinence or reduce your use of alcohol or substances, and access essentials such as benefits.

There are of course some rules for expected behaviour in the houses. These will be clearly laid out to you on your arrival to Ara, and you’ll be given a copy of the house expectations. This is so that everyone staying in the house knows exactly what is required of them. Some of our residents begin part-time work or volunteering; this is heavily encouraged and we can help you to train in areas of interest. A recent example is a resident getting back into painting and decorating, and volunteering to paint some of the bedrooms.

Unlike in a rehab, you are free to come and go as you please. You will have your own key, to the front door and your private room. You can have visitors to the house, although not overnight guests.

Supported housing in Bristol for substance misuse disorders

Are you considering a dry house in Bristol? Ara Housing Service may be for you!

We allow both professional and self-referrals to our housing service. Anyone interested is welcome to come along to our weekly drop-in sessions, held at 11-12 Kings Court, King Street, Bristol BS1 4EF. These are every Wednesday at 2 pm. We also hold weekly sessions at Bristol Drugs Project.

What happens if I self-refer or attend an Ara housing drop-in?

You will be asked some questions about your local connection to Bristol, and the stage of your recovery. If you qualify for the service, we will ask you some more questions and refer you to the most appropriate service.

You can also give us a call on 0330 1340 286 if you have any questions. You can also contact us with any questions or to request to be referred to a place in our housing service. We’d be delighted to answer.

See the infographic below to decide whether you attend one of our drop-ins!

Are you homeless in Bristol? Ara provides supported housing and dry houses for substance misuse How to access dry houses in Bristol via self-referral or drop ins at Ara Bristol

We wish you the best on your recovery journey and hope you consider Ara as a choice of supported housing in Bristol.