Getting hired with a little help from their friends

A new resource connects recovering addicts with local employers and housing friendly to their cause.

There’s little doubt substance abuse and addiction can be crippling to a person’s personal and professional life.

Admitting a problem is considered the first step to recovery but where a lot of people stumble in the recovery process actually comes later — finding a job or housing with the stigma of being an addict, and possibly also a convicted felon, hanging over their heads.

Earlier this month, Safe Communities Madison-Dane County launched the Recovery Friendly Directory on its website as a resource for those in recovery who are seeking employment and housing options in Dane County.

Individuals in recovery who are struggling to find a job or a place to live are encouraged to visit the site often for updates, and area employers, business owners, landlords, and property managers are asked to consider listing in the directory to help make a difference in someone’s life, notes Skye Tikkanen, Drug Poisoning Prevention Program manager for Safe Communities.

OutReach did something similar for the LGBT community,” Tikkanen says. “We wanted a way to connect people in recovery to the resources they need and to promote businesses that support those in recovery.”

Tikkanen notes that’s not an insignificant number of people in the Dane County area. According to a 2012 study conducted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, 10% of American adults, ages 18 and over, are in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse problems. That number stands even higher in the Midwest at 14%. Extrapolated out for Dane County, that means approximately 71,000 people are in recovery locally, she says.

“Alcohol use has been prevalent in Dane County for decades,” Tikkanen says. “Recently, we are seeing a large increase in the amount of opioid abuse. Some people are also recovering from [addictions to] cocaine, amphetamines, sedatives, cannabis, and hallucinogens.

“People who are new to recovery often need treatment resources and sober living resources,” Tikkanen continues. “Those who are in the second stage of recovery want to become productive members of society. They need a second chance to be able to find housing and employment, even when they have legal charges.”

According to Tikkanen, the Recovery Friendly Directory, which can be found at, provides people in recovery with a list of treatment resources, sober living sites, landlords who are recovery friendly, and employers that are recovery friendly on our website.

Any employers or landlords that want to be listed can click on the “For Advertisers” button on the website. Businesses willing to rent to or hire those in recovery, even when they may have a past drug charge, can be listed for free. There is a $200 annual fee along with a one-time setup fee of $150 to have a banner ad for a business placed on the website, too. In return, Tikkanen says allies of the recovery community are directed to make recovery friendly businesses their first shopping destination.



“People in recovery are great employees and tenants,” notes Tikkanen. “When a person has stabilized in recovery they are committed to living a better life and to giving back to others.”

Things that employers and landlords should look for when considering a person in recovery are:

  • No new legal charges in the past year;
  • A recommendation from a counselor or sponsor; and
  • How up front they are about their recovery.

“These are signs of someone committed to their recovery and a good hire or tenant for you,” Tikkanen explains. “The best thing that business owners can do to help the recovery community is be willing to give people a second chance. When people in recovery have housing and employment, recovery brings them more happiness than using did and they stay in recovery.”

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