What is a "wet house"?

I just read an article that mentioned two new "wet houses" being built close to my home. It said something about giving homeless alcoholics another place to sleep. Sounds like a homeless shelter to me. What's the deal?

asked 25 Feb '12, 16:48

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Many homeless people use most of the money they do have on alcohol and other drugs.


Alcohol Addiction

There is a shortage of shelters and other services for homeless alcoholics, so wet houses are popping up to offer a helping hand.


Harm Reduction

Wet houses are a form of harm-reduction because they do not aim to stop drinking completely, but to lessen the dangers associated with being an alcoholic on the street.

“Wet houses,” also known as pre-recovery housing, are a harm mitigation strategy that provides safe refuge for late-stage, high-risk alcoholics who would otherwise be living on the street. The underlying principle is that the cost of providing shelter is offset by the savings in emergency medical and other services were the residents still homeless. The term “wet house” arises from the fact that, unlike most other programs, residents are not required to remain abstinent.

Program participants are permitted to drink on site in designated areas and in their rooms. Residents must pay for their own alcoholic products, which are sometimes purchased for them by staff, depending on the program rules. In many programs they contribute a percentage of their income — usually Social Security or disability coverage — toward program expenses. Their medical well-being is monitored by trained personnel.

This type of harm mitigation has been used successfully in Europe and South Africa, and is being tested in several North American cities including Seattle, Minneapolis, Ottawa and Toronto. San Francisco is considering a program along the same lines.


Wet houses are based on the assumption — borne out by experience — that providing shelter and medical care for active alcoholics saves substantial amounts over the cost of emergency care when they are living on the street, all the while improving their quality of life. This is known as harm reduction (or harm mitigation), and it has been shown to save up to 75% over the common alternative of leaving them on the streets until an emergency occurs. Economically speaking, wet houses are genius. However, many are on the side of public health and believe sites like these prolong alcoholism.


answered 26 Feb '12, 19:28

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Homeless alcoholics are finding it increasingly difficult to find shelter on the streets. Budget cuts and harsh economic times are causing much needed shelters to shut down or relocate. In response, addicts turn to hospitals and the police for help. Taxpayers bare the brunt of this movement, as they pay for those who cannot afford treatment themselves. Alternate harm-reduction solutions, such as "wet houses", are being created to deal with this problem and bring help to those who need it most. (submitted by email)


answered 14 Mar '12, 01:10

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"A 'wet house' is a home for chronic alcoholics where they can drink in peace and are provided with medical supervision."

Seattle has some wet houses and reports success with them. The city claims to have saved millions in ER costs, ambulances and police response to alcoholics on the streets, etc.


answered 14 Mar '12, 01:12

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Asked: 25 Feb '12, 16:48

Seen: 4,960 times

Last updated: 16 Apr '12, 21:08