Update re: ‘Clean and Sober’ & ‘Halfway’ Houses

Senator Maile Shimabukuro

I often receive calls from residents concerned about “clean and sober,” “drug rehab,” or other similar group living “halfway” homes which are either already located, or proposed to be located, in their neighborhoods.  The following is general advice regarding these types of group living homes.

If you know the address of the halfway house, you can try calling the Department of Planning & Permitting (DPP) at 768-8000 to ask what, if anything, you and your neighbors can do to protest the permit application.  Generally speaking, stricter requirements for halfway houses are triggered when there are 8 or more residents.

The Legislature passed a bill this session, SB2536, which forms a Task Force to come up with recommendations about how to improve our laws regarding Clean and Sober homes.  Here is a link to the bill, testimony, committee reports, status, etc:


The laws governing halfway houses are found at Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) section 46-4.  Here are some of the relevant sections of the law:

…(d)  Neither this section nor any other law, county ordinance, or rule shall prohibit group living in facilities with eight or fewer residents and that are licensed by the State as provided for under section 321-15.6, or in an intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities in the community for persons, including mentally ill, elder, disabled, developmentally disabled, or totally disabled persons, who are not related to the home operator or facility staff; provided that those group living facilities meet all applicable county requirements not inconsistent with the intent of this subsection and including building height, setback, maximum lot coverage, parking, and floor area requirements.

(e)  No permit shall be issued by a county agency for the operation of a halfway house, a clean and sober home, or a drug rehabilitation home unless a public informational meeting is first held in the affected community.  The State shall provide notification and access to relevant information, as required, under chapter 846E.

A clean and sober home shall be considered a residential use of property and shall be a permitted or conditional use in residentially designated zones, including but not limited to zones for single-family dwellings.

(f)  For purposes of this section:

“Clean and sober home” means a house that is operated pursuant to a program designed to provide a stable environment of clean and sober living conditions to sustain recovery and that is shared by unrelated adult persons who:

(1)  Are recovering from substance abuse;

(2)  Share household expenses; and

(3)  Do not require twenty-four-hour supervision, rehabilitation, or therapeutic services or care in the home or on the premises;

provided that the home shall meet all applicable laws, codes, and rules of the counties and State.

“Developmentally disabled person” means a person suffering from developmental disabilities as defined under section 333F-1.

“Disabled person” means a person with a disability as defined under section 515-2.

“Drug rehabilitation home” means:

(1)  A residential treatment facility that provides a therapeutic residential program for care, diagnosis, treatment, or rehabilitation for socially or emotionally distressed persons, mentally ill persons, persons suffering from substance abuse, and developmentally disabled persons; or

(2)  A supervised living arrangement that provides mental health services, substance abuse services, or supportive services for individuals or families who do not need the structure of a special treatment facility and are transitioning to independent living;

provided that drug rehabilitation homes shall not include halfway houses or clean and sober homes.

“Elder” means an elder as defined under section 356D-1.

“Halfway house” means a group living facility for people who:

(1)  Have been released or are under supervised release from a correctional facility;

(2)  Have been released from a mental health treatment facility; or

(3)  Are receiving substance abuse or sex offender treatment; and

are housed to participate in programs that help them readjust to living in the community.

“Intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities in the community” means an identifiable unit providing residence and care for eight or fewer individuals with intellectual disabilities.  Its primary purpose is the provision of health, social, and rehabilitation services to the individuals with intellectual disabilities through an individually designed active treatment program for each resident.  No person who is predominantly confined to bed shall be admitted as a resident of such a facility.

“Mental health treatment facility” means a psychiatric facility or special treatment facility as defined under section 334-1.

“Mentally ill person” has the same meaning as defined under section 334-1.

“Totally disabled person” means a “person totally disabled” as defined under section 235-1.

“Treatment program” means a “substance abuse program” or “treatment program”, as those terms are defined under section 353G-2.

Here is a link to the entire section of the HI Revised Statutes 46-4:


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