This video expressively states that no licensing is required and no regulations need to be met to open a sober living home for business. Once inside the house, there’s regulations on how many fire extinguishers there must be, but not too many more beyond that. The lack of governance and guidance has led to serious consequences for some sober living home residents and their families.
In the early 2000s, the U.S. real estate market was booming, and property loans were easily ascertained. With an influx of new homeowners, there was also a rise in the opening of sober living homes. Because it required little oversight, starting a sober living home was not an especially hard endeavor to take on.
While living at an Los Angeles sober living home called “Safe House”, Wendy McEntyre’s son Jarrod died of a heroin overdose. After her son’s death, like any mother would, she wanted answers. She reached out “Safe House” owner Rick Schoonover, but he failed to get back to her. Wendy then took it upon herself to do dig deeper. Through her research she learned that Rick Schoonover had been cited 7 times for housing men in sheds in his backyard prior to Jarrod’s death. The consequence for not correcting these violations is $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail.
It turns out Rick Schoonover owned 3 sober living homes of this nature. On March 13, 2009, he sat for a deposition where much is learned about his criminal history and speckled past. He disclosed he’d been convicted of numerous felonies, possibly 3-4, including assault with a deadly weapon and robbery. He also admits he did not train his employees Gloria prior her to acting in the “Safe House” managerial position.
The particular “Safe House” that Jarrod lived in was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home that housed 24 men. Wendy cites that if Rick Schoonover charged $600 a head per month, had 24 men on one property, and owns a total of three properties, then he’s bringing in $42,000 a month. She later learned that he also had a non-profit tax-exempt filing status called a 501(c)(3). Wendy was shocked the IRS had approved Rick Schoonover’s 501(c)(3) application, and dismayed the house her son lived in had no defibrillator and no requirements for first aid. Although the City of LA “cited” Schoonover, no changes were implemented and he continues to own and operate sober living homes.
Sober living homes need regulations, one of which mandating on-staff trained professionals to work with residents as they are high risk people. On the contrary, the owners of sober living homes seem to be only accountable to themselves, and many happen to also be recovering addicts, including Rick Schoonover. Unfortunately there is no incentive to change the status quo within such a “cash cow” business. Wendy describes the sober living home industry as a conspiracy of guilt and greed, that preys on the backs of vulnerable people.