USDA To Provide Transitional Housing To Rural Americans Recovering From Substance Abuse

By John Lavitt 09/08/16

The USDA announced a new initiative to give safe, affordable housing options to rural Americans in recovery. 

USDA To Provide Transitional Housing To Rural Americans Recovering From Substance Abuse

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new initiative that would use the rural development resources of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help fill the gap in transitional housing for people in early recovery from substance use disorders.

In early 2016, President Obama appointed Secretary Vilsack to head a federal inter-agency effort focused on rural opioid use. With the opioid epidemic devastating rural communities that lack the resources of urban cities, the lack of treatment and recovery options has become a real problem.

Inspired after hearing people in a New Hampshire drug court program bemoan the lack of affordable housing, Vilsack realized he could help fill the gap. As the chair of the White House Rural Council, he realized he had access to resources that could make a difference. 

An example of Vilsack's plan, as outlined in a recent press release by the USDA, is that the agency is promoting the sale of single- and multi-family properties to qualified nonprofit organizations that would convert them into transitional housing facilities. These properties are owned by the USDA as a result of foreclosure, known as Real Estate Owned (REO) properties.

As a result, REO properties will be made available for purchase at below-market cost to qualified nonprofits that are willing to provide housing for people with substance use disorders. 

"The journey from having a substance use disorder to recovery requires understanding, treatment, and support," said Vilsack. "But too often that journey is not completed because of a lack of safe, affordable housing options for those on their way back to being healthy, contributing members of our communities. The opioid epidemic is hitting rural America especially hard and there are few options for transitional housing. Today's actions will lead to more options for those in recovery."

The USDA initiative includes other, similar steps toward increasing the availability of affordable housing for rural Americans in addiction recovery, like motivating owners of USDA housing properties to rent to those in recovery by subsidizing units that are occupied by a drug court participant.

Drug court programs have been a successful component of state responses to the opioid epidemic. By combining the new USDA program with the past success of the drug courts, Secretary Vilsack believes new ground can be broken in the national fight against the opioid epidemic. 

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.