How do I Start a Sober Living Business in California?

house image by Earl Robbins from

A sober living business, commonly known as a sober living house, is a transitional housing facility where people who have issues with drug and alcohol abuse can live for a time in a drug- and alcohol-free environment. The residents are people who typically have been released from a licensed drug or alcohol abuse treatment facility and plan to live in the house only temporarily. Besides initial funding, starting a sober living business requires a good business plan, a good location and compliance with local zoning and other laws.

Devise a business plan. A sober living house is both a home and a business. And as such, you'll need to have a plan for it to succeed, just like any other business. Your plan should include a mission statement, financial projections, house rules and operational plans, according to, a U.S. government-affiliated website that has advice and tips for business owners. If you don't have experience in creating a plan, find a professional, such as a consultant or attorney, who can help you. See the References section on this page for more information.

Find an appropriate house in an appropriate area. Depending on how many residents you'll want to house, you'll have to acquire a house of a certain size. You'll also have to consider other factors as well, such as if the house is in an area near public transportation, schools and colleges, health care facilities and places of worship, according to Once you've identified an area or areas to locate the business, you'll also have to become familiar with the local zoning laws and address any concerns that area residents may have.

Register the house with the appropriate local, regional and state regulatory bodies, such as city and county governments. But unless your sober living house will provide professional drug or alcohol treatment or recovery services, a business license is not required, according to the California department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. See the Resources section for more information on this.

Also, you'll have to register with the California Franchise Tax Board if your sober living home will be a non-profit establishment, as most transitional housing facilities in California are.

Apply for grants and funding. While your business is still newly operational, seek funding and donations from the state and federal government, regional businesses, religious organizations and other entities that provide help to non-profit operations. Funding from outside sources will likely be your sober living business's primary source of revenue, according to the California Social Services Department.


About the Author

Mark Nero has been a professional journalist since 1995 and has written for numerous publications within and outside the U.S. His work has appeared in "The Boston Globe," "San Diego Union-Tribune" and "Los Angeles Daily News" among others. Nero studied communications at San Diego State University.

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