The story behind The Cleveland House concept and bringing sober living housing to South Florida.
It was the late 1990’s and drug addiction here in South Florida was at or near its peak. Pill mills were cropping up everywhere and opioid/painkiller abuse was bustling like never before. Drugs like Oxycontin were as popular as ever and the writing was on the wall. Florida, in fact America as a whole, was about to embark upon an unfathomable opioid epidemic.
Meanwhile, crack-cocaine was alive and well, methamphetamine (speed/crystal meth) was slowly making its way here from the West Coast, and drug abuse as a whole was on the rise. Consequently, South Florida was on its way to becoming among the most populated regions worldwide for drug rehab centers and related mental health & addiction treatment services. However, additional support services like halfway houses, recovery homes and sober living residences were few and far between.
It was already widely agreed by addiction recovery professionals that supportive transitional housing was a major component in the bolstering of one’s sobriety. In fact, this realization and belief dates as far back as the 1980’s. The likelihood of somebody checking into 28-day inpatient treatment program and then remaining clean without any type of supportive aftercare housing was quite low. Beyond that, however, it was also becoming evident that in many cases, a long-term (6 to 12 months) stay in a somewhat structured sober living environment could even offer an alternative to traditional drug rehab, especially in cases where the addict didn’t require total separation from life during their initial days of recovery, i.e., having no access to a car, money, freedom, etc.
In the early 2000’s I was able to acquire an amazing beachfront property along the shores of Hollywood, Florida, which is just south of Ft Lauderdale. It had previously been used as a motel and was perfectly designed to act as a sober living residence for addicts. The focus was to be entirely on men needing supportive recovery housing, either as transitional housing post rehab, or as an alternative to treatment for those who had no insurance or financial means to pay the costs of drug rehab..
During this time period there were very few options when it came to sober livings or halfway houses. In fact, the term halfway house, during this time, generally invoked visions of rundown transitional homes for hardened criminals coming out of prison. So with that in mind, we knew that a large percentage of addicts & alcoholics wouldn’t really even know what a sober living homes is to begin with.
As The Cleveland House grew in popularity and notoriety throughout the industry, we evolved into a semi-structured sober living home for men, that placed great emphasis on core recovery elements like 12-Steps, while placing equally great emphasis on fun & fellowship in sobriety, and being right on the sands of Hollywood Beach certainly helped with that effort!
Over the years, South Florida’s availability of sober livings and addiction recovery homes grew astronomically. Pretty much from Palm Beach County, down to Ft. Lauderdale in Broward County, to Miami-Dade, the number of halfway houses skyrocketed over the course of 8 to 10 years, to the point that Los Angeles, CA was the only other region worldwide that could remotely compete with us.
During our 20 year stretch in Hollywood, FL we worked with over 1500 men, many of whom are still sober today!
Recently, back in 2021, The Cleveland House moved just a bit north to downtown Fort Lauderdale. We acquired the same property that was being used by Harbor House Sober Living. We have made numerous improvements, both inside and out, and are considered to be a bit more of an upscale sober living residence for men.
No two sober living homes are ultimately alike, and this truth applies whether you’re in Florida or anywhere else around the nation. There are certain elements that are commonly seen throughout most of them, however, like no drugs or alcohol being allowed.
Here at Cleveland House, we pride ourselves on our 20+ years of leadership within the addiction recovery housing community. Many other sober living homes have actually looked to us for guidance in their own daily operations. As always, we are honored to contribute all we can to the world of recovery!